By Kathy Walsh

DENVER (CBS4)– A doctor at the Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children, RMHC, has spent a week learning what life is like for his young patients who must wear a back brace.

Dr. Jaren Riley, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon, has been wearing a back brace much like the ones he prescribes to treat scoliosis, a sideways curvature of the spine.

Dr. Jaren Riley being fitted with a back brace (credit: Rocky Mtn. Hospital for Children)

It hasn’t been easy, but what he’s learned has made it all worthwhile.

“I feel like a tube of toothpaste that has the last little bit of toothpaste in it and someone’s trying to squeeze it out of me,” said Riley.

Dr. Jaren Riley (credit: CBS)

For seven days now, the surgeon has challenged himself to walk in the shoes of his young patients.

“It is eye opening to say the least,” Riley told CBS4 Health Specialist Kathy Walsh.

CBS4’s Kathy Walsh interviewsDr. Jaren Riley (credit: CBS)

He has been wearing the stiff, plastic, back brace for 18 hours a day.

“It comes up way up into the armpit to get a good push on the side chest wall,” he explained.

Dr. Jaren Riley (credit: CBS)

Riley prescribes the braces for his patients with scoliosis to keep the curve in their spines from getting worse and to try to avoid surgery.

Now, when fearful patients, the majority 12-year-old girls, ask what it’s like wearing a brace, the doctor can speak from experience.

(credit: CBS)

“It’s hot and it gets in your way,” he said.

He demonstrated how it limits the wearer.

(credit: CBS)

“You can’t really bend over and get it you kind of have to get down like this,” Riley said. “Instead of being able to turn around this way, I actually have to turn my whole self around.”

(credit: CBS)

Riley now understands the tears he sees in his clinic.

“It gave me a lot of respect for these kids who do not complain and really tough their way through it,” he said.

Dr. Jaren Riley (credit: Rocky Mtn. Hospital for Children)

At 7 p.m. Tuesday, the brace experiment ends.

“I am shamefacedly admitting that I am really am looking forward to taking it off,” Riley said.

Dr. Jaren Riley (credit: CBS)

The doctor will now take on a new challenge, coming up with a better way to treat scoliosis.

Some patients wear the brace for up to three years to prevent the curvature of the spine from worsening.

Kathy Walsh is CBS4’s Weekend Anchor and Health Specialist. She has been with CBS4 for more than 30 years. She is always open to story ideas. Follow Kathy on Twitter @WalshCBS4.

  1. My son had to wear a back brace from the time he was six (diagnosed with scoliosis) until he was 12 (when he had surgery). He wore one brace during the day and then had to wear a Charleston Bending Brace at night. When he was just barely 12, his curve was at 70% (backward “S”), so they decided to perform surgery. I felt so sorry for him, but he handled it really well. When he first got the brace, his teacher sat all the students down and he showed them his brace. In middle school, a kid hit him in the back–and regretted it! He’s now 30 and doing quite well, although his back gets quite sore at times.

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