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An orthosis is a device that helps people move better or more safely, or that prevents movement when a body part must be restricted. There are a variety of orthosis braces that an orthotist can make, and they are often custom made to the patient’s specific problem and unique body shape. A brace can be customized for the back to help curtail the curving of the spine in cases of scoliosis, for example. Other orthosis braces can be made for a variety of problems that affect the foot, leg, spine, arm or hand.
An orthosis brace can be constructed to help support a weak joint, such as an ankle, knee or elbow. Theses devices can also help correct or improve movement, including a person’s gait, or they can prevent injury or try to alleviate pain. Some braces, such as certain scoliosis braces, are made to be worn only for a specific number of hours per day to achieve the desired outcome. Other types of braces are worn whenever the correction is needed, such as an orthosis brace that is worn in order for the patient to be able to walk. A doctor can also prescribe an orthosis brace to relieve a pinched nerve and its related pain by altering the body’s alignment.
To make an orthosis brace, an orthotist first must make a mold of the body part that will wear the brace. A mold is made much like a cast would be made for a broken limb, and it actually resembles a cast. The orthotist then uses this mold to construct a brace out of thermoplastic material. In some cases, an orthosis brace requires several fittings to achieve a proper and comfortable fit that will not injure the skin by rubbing too much in certain areas, such as the bony part of the ankle.
A type of orthosis brace known as an AFO (ankle and foot orthosis) is often prescribed for patients who have spina bifida, cerebral palsy, drop foot, a limb deformity, stroke, multiple sclerosis, polio or paraplegia. These patients also may use a KAFO (knee, ankle and foot orthosis), which reaches as high as the thigh to help support the knee in addition to the ankle and foot. A cervical brace is a similar device that protects the neck.
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