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What is Orthosis? Types, Uses, and Recommendations

What is Orthosis?

The word orthosis is derived from the Greek word ortho, which means “to straighten” or “to correct.” An orthosis is a type of brace or another wearable device that is used to achieve one or more of the following goals:

  • To improve mobility
  • Immobilization of an injured part of the body to facilitate recovery
  • To prevent injuries
  • To correct biomechanical misalignments
  • Reduction in pain and weight-bearing
  • To assist in rehabilitation
  • Accommodate or correct deformity
  • Increase independence

There are a variety of orthotic devices available, each with slight differences aimed at helping people with specific mobility issues.

Simple forearm braces with velcro straps or orthopedic shoe inserts are examples of affordable, over-the-counter orthotic devices. People who are healing from minor injuries or trying to relieve minor discomforts often use over-the-counter orthotics. Other orthoses may be prescribed by a medical professional like an orthotist. This may be required by those healing from a more serious injury or those suffering from conditions like cerebral palsy or spina bifida.

Types of Orthosis

A number of orthoses are available for different parts of the body. Orthoses are sometimes referred to as side bars or side bar/band orthoses. There is usually a distinction made between orthoses for paralyzed patients and relief orthoses.

The following are the common types of orthosis:

  • Ankle orthoses (AOs) and knee orthoses (KOs), which are used to protect the joints, reduce discomfort, and provide support following surgery.
  • Foot orthoses (FOs), which are used to treat various leg, foot or postural issues.
  • Ankle-Foot Orthoses (AFOs) and Knee-Ankle-Foot Orthoses (KAFOs), which are used to help with mobility, recovery, and biomechanical goals.
  • Various upper-limb orthoses, which are used to provide functional and positional support to the upper limb.
  • Spinal orthoses, which are used to repair or control spinal injuries and deformities, as well as to immobilize or support spinal injuries.
  • Fracture orthoses, which are a modern alternative to plaster or fiberglass casts.
  • Hip Orthoses (HO), which are used to immobilize a joint after surgery and to recover from developmental dysplasia of the hip (DDH).
  • Head Orthoses, which are used to protect the head after surgery and to treat scaphiocephaly and plagiocephaly.
  • Shoulder Orthoses, which are used to treat rotator cuff injuries.
  • Upper limb Orthoses, which are used to keep the humerus (upper arm bone) and some parts of the shoulder immobilized and protected.
  • Elbow Orthosis (EO), which is used to treat golfer’s elbow, overuse injuries, tennis elbow, arthritis, contractures in cerebral palsy, brain damage, and neuromuscular patients.

Many musculoskeletal problems are treated with a number of prefabricated and custom-made orthoses. They’re specialized instruments and should only be fitted by a professional orthotist or prosthetist.

Orthosis vs ProsthesisWhat is the Difference

People can require assistive devices such as orthotics and prosthetics for a number of reasons. If you’re unfamiliar with these devices, there are a few things you should be aware of, especially the differences between them. The main difference between orthotics and prosthetics is that an orthotic device is used to improve a person’s limb, while a prosthetic device is used to completely replace a limb.

A prosthesis is a man-made limb or body part that is used to replace a missing limb or part of the body which has been lost due to amputation or lack of growth. Individuals who have lost a limb may use these devices to restore function in place of the missing limb. The majority of people who require prosthetic devices usually need them as a result of an accident or a birth defect, although some diseases, such as diabetes, can increase a person’s chances of losing a limb and requiring a prosthetic device. The most common example is of a prosthetic leg for an amputee.

On the other hand, an orthosis is a device that is used to improve, correct, or accommodate the use of a body part. A body part that has lost its function is not necessarily removed from the body as a whole. Orthotics are most often used by people who have problems with functioning arms or legs because of deficiencies or deformities. Orthotic devices provide relief and recovery to the limb by reducing shock and decreasing swelling and inflammation. For example, a spinal orthosis will support someone with a deteriorating spine due to scoliosis – similar to a back brace.

If you notice that any of your limbs are losing sensation, talk to a professional orthotist or prosthetist about your treatments options.  Long periods of standing or walking can aggravate a number of conditions. If you continue to work or behave normally without consulting a professional, the condition is likely to worsen, and you will eventually need a prosthetic device. It’s best to address the problem as soon as possible.

Ankle Foot Orthosis Indications

Ankle–foot orthoses (AFOs) can be used as a walking aid, providing both support and assistance and enabling the patient to progress through the stages of gait. The AFO may be articulated at the ankle with a variety of ankle joints that restrict or assist dorsiflexion and plantarflexion, depending on the situation. This device is more commonly used when ankle spasticity or instability is a concern, such as in patients with stroke or upper motor neuron diseases.

Some of the common indications for an ankle foot orthosis are given below:

  • Arthritis
  • Paralysis
  • Posterior Tibial Tendon Dysfunction
  • Instability of the ankle
  • Ankle fusion
  • CVA/Stroke
  • Drop foot
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Knee Orthosis and its Types

A knee orthosis (KO), also known as a knee brace, is a type of brace that stretches above and below the knee joint and is worn to support, protect or align the knee. A knee orthosis can resist flexion or extension instability of the knee in case of conditions that cause muscular or neurological impairment of the muscles surrounding the knee.

Knee orthoses can help with a number of medical conditions and injuries, such as:

  • Instability
  • Ligament Damage
  • Jumper’s knee
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Stroke or Cerebral Vascular Accident (CVA)
  • Varus or Genu Valgus
  • Cartilage Damage or Meniscal
  • Ruptured tendons
  • Subluxation or Patellar Dislocation
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Hyperextension

The goals of knee orthoses treatment are as follows:

  • To avoid knee hyperextension and to provide stability to the knee
  • To control the biomechanical alignment of the knee during movement and locomotion
  • To assist with surface adaptation
  • Protection of the knee
  • Prevent excessive movements in the knee
  • To provide shock absorption
  • To produce a gait pattern that is more energy efficient
  • To protect the knee from external forces

Types of Knee Orthosis

Range of Motion Knee Brace (ROM):

It’s a custom-fitted range of motion (ROM) brace that uses a multi-point joint fixation system to control and limit flexion and extension of the knee joint, allowing a range of motion or immobilization of the knee. The range of motion knee brace can be used to limit certain knee movements to protect your knee during the recovery period. This brace also helps to provide support at the side of your knee.

Knee Ankle Foot Orthosis (KAFO)

It is a lower extremity orthotic that maintains proper alignment and motion to control instabilities in the lower limb and knee. A Knee Ankle Foot Orthosis (KAFO) is a type of long-leg orthosis that covers the entire leg and is designed to help the leg muscles and stabilizing the joints. Although there are a variety of reasons why someone may need a knee ankle foot orthosis, the most common ones are muscle weakness and leg paralysis.

Chopat (Chondromalacia Patella Strap)

It improves knee performance by applying pressure to the tendon above the kneecap, preventing deterioration of the undersurface of the kneecap, and reducing the pressure of quadriceps on the patella tendon. In addition to this, it also reduces the discomfort from walking, hiking, Patellar tendonitis, distance runners, osteoarthritis, torn PCL, unilateral knee replacement, pain above and below the knee, Osgood Schlatter disease, and other activities involving repetitive knee movement.

Patella Stabilizer

It assists in the prevention and treatment of medial and lateral instability, meniscus injuries, minor ligament sprains, minor patella instability, hypertension, arthritis, and other conditions. Compression helps soft tissue, joint alignment, and relaxation, as well as improves therapeutic heat for increased blood flow and tendon and muscle healing.

Unloader Knee Brace for Osteoarthritis

An unloader knee brace is a type of knee brace that provides pain relief, support and stabilization for knee osteoarthritis that affects only one side of the knee joint. The purpose of this type of knee brace is to “unload” or transfer pressure from one side of the joint to the other. While at rest, wearing an unloader knee brace can provide you with enough support to improve your mobility and to reduce your pain.

Stance Orthoses

Stance control orthoses are a type of device that helps to control the leg during the stance phase of gait. This is the phase when the foot is in contact with the ground during the gait cycle. A stance control orthosis can be locked during the stance phase but unlocked during the swing phase to reduce the need for compensations and to help with ground clearance.

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