A lower limb orthosis is a device worn on the lower limb to provide support to the leg and/or foot in order to improve a persons gait (walking) pattern. Different people need additional support in different areas of the lower limb, but having the support in the right place will help with their postural alignment, and this promotes efficient muscle function and can improve balance and reduce fatigue when walking.
The orthotics can also reduce pain and prevent the progression of deformities. There are many different types of orthotics and they can be made out of different materials depending on the biomechanical outcome required. Before your child is given an orthotic, a physiotherapist and orthotist will assess them. An orthotist is specialised in understanding the biomechaninces and anatomy of the body alongside the engineering aspect of an othortic.
Here are some common orthotic devices:
Dynamic Ankle Foot Orthosis (DAFO)
A DAFO is usually chosen if a small amount of extra stability around the ankle is required to gain stability. It is usually cast to the shape of the child’s foot and stops just above the ankle joint, but you can get some that are off the shelf. It is made out of a thinner material to allow flexibility when the child is walking.
Ankle Foot Orthosis (AFO)
AFO’s are also custom made and provide stability around the foot and ankle, finishing just below the knee. AFO’s can be fixed or have a hinge to allow some movement at the ankle. The orthotist will also decide whether or not a wedge is needed on the heel if there is limited range of movement.
Knee Ankle Foot Orthosis (KAFO)
A KAFO is a long leg orthosis that goes over the knee to help stabilize the knee joint. This type of orthosis is commonly used for children with muscle weakness who cannot stop their knee from flexing when trying to walk. Often the orthosis keeps the leg straight but more modern designs can automatically lock and unlock at the appropriate times when the child is walking to allow some knee bend.
Parents of children who have orthotics often find it difficult to find shoes to fit over them, we have recently come across these shoes provided by Tomcat, they open at the back to allow your child to slip their feet straight in: http://tomcatspecialneeds.co.uk/twisters/
Does your child need to be assessed by a physiotherapist and orthotist with a view to addressing any problems they may have walking? We work closely alongside top orthotists in the UK. Contact us to book your child’s assessment with one of our paediatric physiotherapists on 0207 884 0374 or email us at email@example.com.