Orthotics is the design and fitting of supportive braces and splints to patients who because of muscle weakness or deformity have disabling conditions of the limbs or spine. The patient may have been born with a deformity or may have developed their problem later in life. The splint may only need to be worn temporarily, perhaps after an accident or an operation, or permanently if the weakness or deformity cannot be corrected. The devices (orthoses) which are fitted by the orthotist cover a very wide range of products including collars to support the neck, spinal supports, splints, belts, corsets, leg callipers and splints and special footwear and include:
Most orthotic devices last two to five years on average and depend on the material, the patients weight, and the patients activity level. However, annual follow-up visits are recommended for optimal functioning of the orthotics.
The principles of orthotic management involve the external application of a supportive brace to achieve various desired outcomes. Regardless of the shape or form of the brace, orthotic management incorporates basic principles of tone reduction, pain control, contracture reduction, and physiologic alignment to achieve the desired outcomes. These straightforward interventions can make a significant difference for the impaired individual.
Orthotic braces contribute to the cost-effective management at essentially no risk. For example, catastrophically impaired individuals can benefit from orthotic bracing to reduce painful spasms. Orthotists incorporate known patterns of muscle movements, such as flexor and extensor synergy patterns, to reduce spasms and increase joint range of motion. A wrist/hand orthosis can improve, for example, upper extremity spasticity and the feeding abilities of an individual with a cervical spine impairment. An orthotic device for the ankle and foot, as another example can reduce painful spasms in an individual who has suffered a stroke. Braces for the spine can allow certain individuals with unstable or painful spines to maintain an upright posture and improve their respiratory and circulatory systems.
Pain management frequently involves the stabilization of painful structures to reduce discomfort and allow functional activity without the unwanted side effects of immobility. For each of these conditions, orthotics can play a significant role in management.
There are numerous medical benefits of a comprehensive orthotic approach for catastrophically impaired individuals with severe musculoskeletal impairments. A comprehensive approach can treat the entire kinetic chain of the musculoskeletal system. As with many issues in the care of elderly individuals, a small improvement in one may have positive repercussions in other areas.
Orthotic devices of the upper extremities can decrease tone and pain and allow the individual some independence with feeding and activities of daily living. Proper orthotic devices to the spine and pelvis can help with pain, tone, transfers, continence, skin care and constipation. Lower extremity orthotics are likewise useful in maintaining skin integrity, edema control, tone and contracture reduction, and improving lower extremity blood flow.
Perhaps one of the most important aspects of orthotic bracing is the maintaining and improving a patient's psychological condition through increased social interaction and an enhanced quality of life. Individuals placed in more physiological alignment are better able to establish eye contact and interact with the environment.
Foot and leg orthotics take various forms and are constructed of various materials. All are concerned with improving foot function and minimizing stress forces that could ultimately cause foot deformity and pain.
Orthotic devices are also effective in the treatment of children with foot deformities. Most podiatric physicians recommend that children with such deformities be placed in orthotics soon after they start walking, to stabilize the foot. The devices can be placed directly into a standard shoe, or an athletic shoe.
Usually, the orthotics need to be replaced when the child’s foot has grown two sizes. Different types of orthotics may be needed as the child's foot develops, and changes shape. The length of time a child needs orthotics varies considerably, depending on the seriousness of the deformity and how soon correction is addressed.
If you or someone you know is in need of orthopedic braces, contact us today to find out how we can help you.
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