There are many different tools we use to promote your foot and ankle health at McDowell Orthopedics & Podiatry Group. Custom orthotic devices are some that you may already be familiar with, but we can also prescribe AFOs and balance braces to provide help for an even greater range of potential issues that might affect you or a loved one.
What We Mean by “AFOs”
An AFO (ankle foot orthosis) is a device that extends from below the knee down to the foot and is used to control motion, maintain proper alignment, and reduce instabilities in the lower limb. Plastic AFOs are generally custom-fabricated and enclose both the bottom of the foot and back of the calf to provide a stable structure. Some are created so that the ankle is fixed, whereas others allow for ankle movement (depending on the condition being addressed). They are worn within a normal, lace-up style shoe.
Why These Devices Are Important
There are various conditions that may benefit from either an AFO or balance brace, including neurological and orthopedic ones. Cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, and strokes are some of the neurological conditions, whereas arthritis, fractures, and severe sprains are orthopedic conditions that we might treat with one of these devices. For orthopedic injuries, the AFO will help to stabilize the injury and remove pressure off the area while it heals.
AFOs and Balance Braces as Fall Prevention
Additionally, AFOs can be used as part of a fall prevention strategy for individuals who may otherwise have a heightened risk—including seniors. It is reported that over 14 million Americans who are aged 65 or older fall at least once every year. These devices are reported to decrease the risk of a potentially serious fall by 30-60%.
Balance braces and AFOs reduce the risk of falls by improving balance and providing a structural support for muscles that have become weakened over time. One of the great features of these devices is the fact that they are able to provide the support without being heavy. In fact, many of them are not much heavier than an average cell phone!
AFOs and Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral palsy is a neurological disorder that takes hold as a child’s brain develops. There are various potential factors that can contribute to the disorder, but the symptoms are generally similar. The condition primarily affects an individual’s motor skills and muscle coordination. These can lead to lack of balance and instability. Activities and tasks that seem easy to healthy people can be challenging for those who have cerebral palsy because of coordination and motor skill impairments.
Ankle foot orthoses can help this condition by giving the stability the body does not naturally provide on its own. Additionally, they can establish a more natural gait pattern by minimizing limb spasticity and controlling muscular imbalances.
California Foot and Ankle Care
If you would like more information about AFOs and balance braces, we would be glad to help. Call our Carmichael, CA office at (916) 961-3434 to speak to one of our friendly staff members. If you require treatment for any lower limb issue, schedule an appointment with McDowell Orthopedics & Podiatry Group right now by phone or through our online form.