A lower extremity brace is an external device that supports stability to the spine, hips, leg, knee, ankle, or foot. They train the lower extremity joints and muscles to function normally. Lower extremity braces are simultaneously used to prevent actions that may cause additional damage, like over extending the knee when walking. Lower extremity braces are designed to assist with a wide array of conditions. An orthotist is specialized in the treatment of orthosis, and can help you decide what type of brace (or orthotic) would be right for you. He or she will likely analyze any physical deformities such as muscle mass in the legs and ankles. If the patient is mobile, the orthotist will likely conduct a gait analysis. During a gait analysis, the patient walks a distance while the doctor notates any abnormalities. If a deformity is found, the doctor will recommend treatment and a lower extremity brace specific to your condition.
A foot orthotic is designed to provide comfort and support to the foot, but the patients legs and knees may benefit as well. A foot orthotic is an insert that generally fits inside the show. They are used to reduce pain associated with flat arches, diabetic sores, and other minor issues. A foot orthotic reduces pain pounding by providing cushion to the bottom of the feet. Depending on the severity of the ailment, it may be a good idea to test an over the counter insert before investing in custom foot orthotic. Custom foot orthotics are divided into two categories: functional orthotics and accomodative orthotics.
Custom Functional Orthotic
A custom foot orthotic is an insert made especially for the patient's foot, and no one else. A custom foot orthotic takes into account the structural contour and shape, providing optimal support. The material is usually rigid, unlike soft insoles. They are used to prevent abnormal movement in the feet while walking and provide pain relief from injuries like tendinitis.
Custom Accommodative Orthotic
A custom accommodative orthotic is used to provide additional comfort to those with painful feet. Pain may be associated with diabetic sores or callouses. Unlike a functional orthotic, it made from a softer, more flexible material. The cushion aids in relief by limiting pounding while walking. When coupled with diabetic shoes, many patients find optimal pain reduction that encourages a greater quality of life.
An ankle foot orthotic is a device that wraps around the lower leg and heel. It is used to mainly support the ankle and heel in a condition known as foot drop. Foot drop occurs when muscles or nerves in the forefoot are weakened or damaged. Foot drop usually denotes a larger problem in the lower extremity muscular or nervous system. Depending on the severity of the issue, an orthotist may suggest an AFO splint or and AFO brace.
An ankle-foot orthotic splint, or AFO splint may be used after surgery or in times when movement in the ankle needs to be minimized. The ankle is unhinged, disallowing movement around the ankle.
An AFO brace is made much like the AFO splint. The largest difference in the two, is the hinged ankle. An AFO ankle brace controls and guides the patient, but allows for a wider range of motion due to these hinges. The ankle brace is primarily used in patients who need assistance training muscles and joints to move naturally. They are commonly used in children who are born with gait abnormalities. They may also be used in adults who are recovering from injury during rehabilitation.
A knee orthotic stretches from above the knee, to just below it. It is intended to support in aligning the joints of the knee and to reduce discomfort. Discomfort in the knee that does not extend to the hip or ankle is often caused may be caused by obesity or osteoarthritis, although there could be many contributing factors. In both cases, loss of connective tissue in the knee lead to degenerative joint pain and swelling. Those who have had surgery and are in recovery may find relief in a knee orthotic. The knee orthotic is usually hinged at the knee to allow the patient sit and stand as needed.
A Knee-Ankle Orthotic, also called a KAFO, is a device designed to assist patients with limited mobility by providing support to their knee, ankle, and foot. The device extends from the top of the knee to the bottom of the ankle. The KAFO is hinged on the sides at both the knee and ankle. Its purpose is to provide muscle and joint stability to the knee and ankle. Some KAFOs are specially designed to remove weight from the knee and make mobility easier.
A hip-knee-ankle-foot orthotic, also known as an HKAFO, assists patients by providing support to the hip, knee, ankle, and foot. Patients who benefit from an HKAFO are usually paraplegics who would not be able to walk otherwise. They are also used in children whose lower extremity muscles or nerves are damaged or under developed. An HKAFO may consist of a belt or girdle to hold the individual upright, while the braces help to align the knee and ankle joints.
The Denis Browne Splint is used almost exclusively as treatment for foot abduction orthosis, or club foot. Club foot is a muscular deformity where a individual's foot in turned inward. The device is named after Sir Denis Brown, who many regarded a trailblazer in the field of pediatric surgery. The device consists a bar with two attached adjustable shoes. When used correctly, the Denis Browne Splint boasts a 98% success rate at repairing clef feet.
Lower extremity braces are the instruments that provide flexible external support to thigh, foot, ankle, heel or lower leg. These are usually designed to help patients, to support and help them in healing after injuries, or surgeries. These are usually worn while performing leg works, be it walking, running or even standing. Lower extremity braces are of different types, based on the different parts of the legs, and are usually wrapped or attached to legs for providing correct postures, and right alignment. These are generally used to provide functional support or position.
Lower extremity braces are mostly used to heal cases of posterior muscle or tendon injuries, immobilization of joints, different kinds of muscle or tissue sprains etc. Few braces are also used to protect the legs from leg related to injuries while running or during any strenuous sports. People who are related to sports, use different types of braces in advance to check any type of injury from happening. Lower extremity braces, are available for both male and females and are of various sizes based on the gender and body type.
As mentioned earlier , there are different types of lower extremity braces, and depending upon the type, they are made of different materials like neoprene fabrics , nylon materials, leather, plastic, carbon, steel etc.
Causes of Lower extremity injuries - Most of the lower extremity injuries are caused due to overuse and accidents. From plantar fasciitis to sprains, to stress fractures, etc all are caused due to overuse of the lower extremities. Few major and minor causes of overuse injuries are – intense exercise programs, exercise or work environment, the equipment that is used like the shoes, then muscle imbalance, joint dysfunction etc. Below are few injuries that are caused due to overuse :
Ligaments/ fascia - Plantar fasciitis, hip joint capsulitis, compartment syndrome etc
Joints – Osteoarthritis , degenerative joint disease of ankle etc
Bones – Stress reaction, heel spur etc
Nerves – Tarsal tunnel syndrome, Nerve entrapments etc.
Types of braces and their uses:
– These type of braces are used by people, who have posterior tendon injuries, ankle arthritis , degenerative foot, ligament injury etc. These are short braces of plastic, encased in leather .
Heel cradle inserts – These are designed to prevent and relieve people from heel pain, also it absorbs shocks and provides, cushioning to the heels throughout the day. They can be made of various materials like silicon, leather etc.
Short ankle-foot braces – These are the type of braces, that have ankle joints and help in the bending of ankles. These also work for several foot joints, which help while walking. These are mainly for people with ankle arthritis or feet instabilities.
These are specially designed for patients to recover from injuries and surgeries of lower limbs, like of ankle and foot. These devices are a lot different from basic crutches and are a more useful, as this device helps the patient bear the weight of their body easily, and their limbs never touch the ground. It allows the patient to be self-sufficient and allows them to move from one place to other without much fussing.
Plantar fasciitis braces – Plantar fasciitis is one of the most common forms of heel pain. These are generally caused in middle-aged people and mostly happen at night during sleeping. These plantar fasciitis braces work to hold the foot in such a way, that the tissues don’t end up getting pulled, and thus the pain is avoided. It is a type of brace that is not only attached to the foot but also the ankle or lower leg. Its intended function is to stretch the plantar fascia ligament while the leg is on rest.
Post op shoes - These are the shoes, that are recommended to wear after operations in the foot. These are used for protecting the foot and providing it protection, and also accommodating the bandages. It is provided with a square toe design to protect the toes from various injuries.
Thigh sleeves – Thigh sleeves are usually worn to correct hamstring injuries, and helps the patients, to get over muscle pain in the thigh region. These are mainly used by athletics. Its working mechanism is very interesting. It works by providing warmth and uniform compression to the thigh muscles and thus increasing blood circulation, in that particular region, which helps in healing faster. These are usually made of neoprene.
Walker boots - These are used to maintain foot and ankle stability and control the range of motion in the lower extreme regions. They are made with solid ankle joints to accommodate treatment of injuries, fractures etc.
Knee Immobilizer – These are often used to immobilize the lower extremity during knee injuries. The provide compression and helps in stabilizing the knees.
Knee-ankle-foot support – These are used to provide support to the proper joint alignment for the knee, ankle, and foot. It helps is protecting the lower limb and the foot. These are made of a variety of materials like plastic, metal etc. These are mostly used in case of knee-ankle injuries.
Foot Orthotics – These are used to distribute the pressure evenly on the foot , and on the areas of the foot that are overly sensitive. These are actually designed for deformative foot, and to correct the overall alignment of the ankle , leg, and lower limb. They can be soft, semi-rigid, and rigid depending upon the foot condition.
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