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Ossur AFO Light is lightweight carbon fiber ankle foot orthosis

Managing Weakness

Muscle Weakness can result from many conditions including injury, neuropathies, stroke, MS, Muscular Dystrophy and even surgery. This can lead to difficulty walking and even affect standing balance.  Many people suffering from muscle weakness adapt by walking differently (developing compensatory gait deviations) and limiting their activities. Fortunately, managing weakness is one of the most common applications for orthotic intervention (bracing). The proper use of orthoses (braces) can allow individuals with muscle weakness to walk and function in a safe and efficient manner (walking normally) without having to compensate for the weakness. There are also solutions available for those suffering from weakness in the arms or hands.

Orthotic Options

Carbon Fiber Ankle Foot Orthoses (AFO) are frequently used by JP&O. These are low profile, lightweight braces that are ideally suited for patients with mild to moderate drop foot due to weakness. They may be appropriate for those managing weakness in other muscle groups as well.  Weakness in the muscle groups that control the foot, ankle, and even the knee can be effectively managed with these dynamic systems resulting in safer, more efficient and more natural walking.  Many patients who have previously used other types of AFOs (or may have rejected them due to comfort, bulk, or cosmesis) are able to transition to these dynamic devices with great success and enjoy a higher level of function. Carbon fiber systems may also be combined with custom foot supports (inserts) to provide additional protection, comfort or control when needed.

We have seen many truly remarkable outcomes with carbon fiber systems. The ultra-lightweight, low profile and dynamic nature of these devices is a true departure from the idea of what it’s like to wear a “brace.” There are many systems available that do different things; your orthotist at JP&O will work closely with you to design the system which best meets your individual needs.

Knee extensor (quadriceps) weakness is a condition that leads to many problems including falls, knee joint damage (due to hyperextension), and inefficient walking. Traditionally, orthoses (braces) to address this problem have been bulky, heavy and require the user to walk with a stiff knee and unlock/lock the knee joint to sit/stand respectively. Stance Control Knee Orthoses allow the user to walk without locking the knee straight. These systems may be lower-profile, and lighter weight and may be constructed of lightweight composite, metal, or plastic materials. There are now many designs available that lock when stability is needed and unlock to allow the knee to bend during walking and sitting without the user having to activate the lock/unlock mechanism. This function allows the user to walk more safely, naturally and efficiently while providing the stability they need.

A custom polymer (plastic) brace provides a very close, intimate fit and affords maximum control of the leg and foot. The total contact design allows a level of control not available from other systems. More involved patients with severe spasticity, deformity, significant range-of-motion limitations, or bone/joint involvement generally require this additional control. There are virtually endless design options available in plastic systems. A plastic brace is always worn over a sock, inside a shoe. Many shoe styles are acceptable for use with plastic braces. However, if you have diabetes or problems with swelling, a metal or carbon fiber brace may be more appropriate for you.

Our Team can help you

The physical therapy team will help you retrain muscles, increase your strength, improve joint range of motion, and improve your stability when walking.

An occupational therapist may work with you on upper body movement and control. The many goals of your therapists’ treatment plan include your relearning activities of daily living, and helping to improve your function. Orthotic management (bracing) can be a critical part of the rehabilitation process, allowing the therapist to concentrate on areas that can be improved, and help the patient learn to function in spite of physical limitations.

After a thorough evaluation, the orthotists at JP&O will design your brace to meet your own special needs. The Allied Health professionals on your team, along with others such as Rehab Counselors and Speech Therapists, work to maximize your recovery. All Allied Health professionals work together as a team under the direction of your Rehab Physician.

The most important person on the healthcare team is you. Your willingness to participate and succeed in your recovery is the most critical component. Without your drive and desire any plan will fall short of its intended goal.

Asking a lot of questions that begin with “Why...” or “Please explain to me...” will give you the opportunity to learn more about the kinds of braces available, why a particular style or type of brace is most appropriate for you, and your expected outcome. Contact JP&O Labs to find out if our services could help you.