Orthoses are devices used to correct physical impairment caused by scoliosis, spina bifida, cerebral palsy, or foot deformities. Orthopedic devices control, guide, limit or immobilize body segments. They assist in movement, reduce weight bearing forces and aid in rehabilitation from fractures. They also correct the shape and function of the body.
Orthoses include ankle foot orthosis, thoracolumbosacral orthosis, knee orthosis and wrist hand orthosis. When orthoses were first made, plaster of Paris molds were made of the patient and then materials like plastic, elastic, metal or a combination of those materials. Now braces for participants in contact sports are made from neoprene to allow movement but reduce the range of movement.
The Boston Brace is used to assist scoliosis sufferers. It is also called a low-profile or underarm brace. It fits under the breast to above the pelvic area in the front and below the shoulder blades to the tail bone in the back. By applying three point of pressure to the curve, the lumbar area is forced to flex, the abdomen is pushed in and the posterior is flattened.
The Charleston Bending Brace is only worn at night. A mold is made of the patient’s body bent towards the outward bulge of the curve. The design of the brace is built to correct the curve of the scoliosis. Repeatedly wearing this brace for eight hours should eventually correct the problem somewhat if not completely. The brace is good for patients with a curve of 20 to 36 degrees.
The Milwaukee Brace is used for mid-back curves. This brace consists of a plastic pelvic girdle and a neck ring. The pieces are connected in the front and back by metal bars. Pressure pads are place along the patient’s curve pattern along the metal bars. This brace is rarely used but patients with a curve very high in the spine can benefit from wearing it.
A knee orthosis is a brace worn to give the knee strength. Osteoarthritis can cause significant pain in the knee resulting in immobility. Knee braces allow a person to remain active. Often therapy and drugs are used in conjunction with a knee brace.
Orthoses have changed over the decades. The materials used for the actual orthotic devices have evolved to include hydraulics as it appears in some knee braces that the patient adjusts to compensate for stability. When this is adjusted, it helps the knee by giving the sense of space between the bones which stops the pain that radiates when the bones rub together. Orthoses products stop pain and give patients the ability to move pain free.
While people of all ages should be aware of potential foot problems, it is especially true for the aging and elderly populations. Medical conditions and physical limitations that develop slowly as we age may prevent people from being able to monitor their foot health. This can be due to poor eyesight, and not being able to see developing situations. Neuropathy can reduce feeling in the feet, and can hide a variety of potentially life-threatening medical conditions. Reduced flexibility may prevent proper toenail trimming and foot cleansing, and may lead to some of the following medical problems.
Foot sores are common among the older population, and may become quite serious before they are discovered. These may be due to toenails that have been gouging into a nearby toe, shoes that do not fit well, pressure sores, loss of circulation in the legs and feet, edema and swelling of the feet and ankles, or injuries that have gone unnoticed. Insect or pet bites can also become inflamed and infected. Stepping on something sharp and sustaining a cut on the bottom of the foot can be hard to notice, until either pain or swelling indicates a medical problem.
Conditions such as diabetes, poor circulation, various neurological diseases and general loss of sensitivity over the years can turn a simple cut or injury into a potential cause for hospitalization. Feet are especially susceptible to infection due to contact with surfaces that are filled with bacteria, such as shoes, rugs, floors, and moist environments such as spas, pools and bathrooms. Moist areas also contribute to foot funguses and other skin diseases.
Additionally, foot problems can affect balance, and episodes of falling may be due to problems with the feet or footwear. The ability to drive may be affected, as painful or numb feet may slow reaction time in an emergency. Problem feet can reduce the ability to feel the brake or accelerator.
If a person knows they are no longer able to cleanse, examine or maintain healthy feet without help, it is time to make an appointment with a podiatrist. The podiatrist may recommend personal aids that can enable an older person to better care for their feet at home. More importantly, a foot specialist can identify problems and conditions to increase patient awareness of certain issues, and help patients fix their problems. They can also instruct patients on the use of different products and techniques to improve foot health. If special shoes, socks or inserts are indicated as needed, this can be addressed.
In our lifetimes we walk 75,000 miles, putting a great deal of stress on the 26 bones and 30 joints in our feet. As we age, our feet lose flexibility and elasticity. Our shock absorbers weaken, and if you add arthritis to that combination, joints become inflamed and distorted. Arthritic foot care becomes imperative at this point.
Start taking better care of your feet by buying better fitting shoes. Hammertoes, neuroma, and bunions form when our shoes fit poorly. Buy shoes with a lower heel and with more room in the shoe. Rheumatoid arthritis will cause you to lose your arch. Buying shoes with arch support will help, as will buying shoes that contour to your foot.
Leave a fingers width between your foot and the shoe. If your finger cannot fit inside your shoe when it is on your foot, it is too tight. Buy rubber soled shoes. The cushioning of the rubber absorbs shock and the flexibility of the rubber helps the ball of the foot, where you push off from as you walk. Look for square or rounded toed shoes giving your toes lots of room to move.
Exercise will also help. Stretching the Achilles tendon, the cord at the back of the heel, will prevent further pain and injury. This will also increase your foots mobility. Lack of mobility will cause significant stress and pain. Massages will also alleviate some pain. Knead the ball of your foot and your toes from top to bottom.
To stretch your Achilles tendon, lean against a wall, with palms flat on the wall. Place one foot forward and one foot back with the heel flat on the floor, then lean forward. Feel the pull in the Achilles tendon and calf. Hold for five seconds and repeat three times. The big toe stretch is another exercise that may alleviate stiffness. Place one thick rubber band around your big toes. Pull the toes toward the other toes on the foot. Hold for five seconds and repeat ten times. Another exercise to try is the toe pull. Place a thick rubber band around the toes of each foot. Spread your toes for five seconds and repeat ten times.
Pain can be alleviated with non-steroid, anti-inflammatory drugs, heat, and ultrasounds. Topical medications with Capsaicin may also help. Thus far, there is no remedy for pain that is one hundred percent effective. Buying shoes that give your feet plenty room with low rubber heels and soles will help. If needed, use heat and anti-inflammatory drugs, and exercise your tendons and toes. Lastly, arthritic foot care should incorporate massages to help your feet with circulation and to relieve the stress locked up in your feet.