Many diseases and injuries can result in problems in the movement of various parts of the body, which in turn has a major influence on the emotional and independent functioning of the person. These problems can range from fractures to limb length deformity and gait problems with spinal cord injury. Orthotics and assistive devices are tools that assist in moving and performing tasks of daily activities.
An orthotic is a device that provides support to a weakened or paralyzed part of the body. Splint, shoe insert, brace or casts are worn externally and are customized as per your specific body size and requirements.
Assistive devices include walkers, wheelchairs, long-handled reachers, crutches, canes, and static and dynamic splints. Your therapist will fit such assistive devices and instruct you regarding its use to keep you safe and make you independent.
Orthotics and assistive devices help align, correct, support or accommodate deformities to improve the overall functioning of the body.
Using The Device
Your physical therapist will train you on the optimum use of the orthotics and assistive devices. The process includes:
- Your therapist will first discuss your hobbies, lifestyle, career, plans and expectations. Your current strength, range of motion and health condition will be evaluated. You will then be recommended a device that best fits your needs.
- Your therapist will then measure the residual and unaffected limb and take an impression of the part with fiberglass or plaster for creating the best fitting device.
- The device will then be aligned and positioned correctly on the part of your body to achieve a comfortable fit. You will be asked to use the device during the visit while your therapist monitors its affect.
- You will be instructed on the operation, care and maintenance of the device. An initial wearing schedule will be provided so that your body becomes adjusted to the device.
- Therapy sessions with your therapist will also be scheduled to help you assist in using the new device.
The assistive devices and orthotics are generally used in combination with exercise. Orthotics and assistive devices help you to open and close things, transfer weight when shifting positions, hold objects or assist you while walking.
- A crutch or a cane can help reduce stress on the joint of a painful knee or hip.
- Braces and splints can relieve joint strain and decrease pain.
- Inversion tables can help relieve low back pain.
- Elastic bands can help strengthen muscles.
- Ankle orthotics keeps the ankle joint in neutral position.
- Full-contact orthotics is used to support the arch of the foot in cases of limb length inequality.
- Over-the-door traction is used for neck pain.
- Slings immobilize your arm with a shoulder, elbow or wrist fracture.
Other simple devices that can help you be independent include:
- Doorknob extenders to help in opening doors without having to twist the knobs.
- Elevated toilet seats are useful for a painful hip or knee.
- Molded or padded handles help in holding kitchen gadgets, combs, toothbrushes or keys.
- Large pull tabs are easier to hold and pull zippers, and buttons replaced with Velcro are more convenient.
- Wheels on objects make it easy to push rather than lift them.