What is Orthopedic Equipment?

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  • Written By: Karyn Maier
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 20 October 2019
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Orthopedic equipment refers to a variety of structural devices designed to stabilize, protect, and/or correct orthopedic disorders. Many of these devices are available as over-the-counter products that can be purchased wherever medical supplies are sold. Examples include arm slings and generic back braces. Other kinds of orthopedic equipment have to be ordered by an orthopedic physician. In fact, some devices may need to be custom made for an individual to ensure proper fit.

Orthopedics is a medical specialty that is focused on the musculoskeletal system, which includes bones, tendons, muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints, and nerves. This branch of study is named from the combined Greek words ortho and pais, meaning “straight" and “children,” respectively. While many people tend to think that owning or using a piece of orthopedic equipment is a reward for getting old, musculoskeletal disorders can affect anyone of any age. In fact, children can experience a number of problems due to birth defects or sports injuries, such as clubfoot, Kohler's Disease, Sever's Disease, and Sprengel's Deformity.


Some of the simplest of kinds of orthopedic equipment likely exist in any home medicine cabinet. Ice packs and heating pads, for example, are considered orthopedic therapy tools. The former is applied immediately after an acute injury, such as a sprained ankle. Applying heat to a site of chronic injury, such as a strained muscle, can help to relax underlying tissues and reduce inflammation. However, there are times when an orthopedic doctor may recommend alternating both therapies for certain conditions.

Since knee injuries are one of the most commonly experienced problems in orthopedic medicine, there are a variety of different knee braces available. Most knee injuries are related to an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear. The piece of orthopedic equipment usually recommended for this type of injury is a functional knee brace, which allows the patient to resume many normal activities while protecting the knee. Prophylactic knee braces, on the other hand, are designed to prevent injury. In fact, athletes sometimes wear them for this purpose.

Depending on the nature and origin of the condition, it may eventually become necessary to consult with an orthopedic surgeon. Orthopedic surgery is considered when all other treatments fail to relieve a chronic condition, such as arthritis. Some of the most common types of orthopedic surgeries are hip and knee replacement and procedures to replace lost cartilage, such as mosaicplasty. Surgery may also be performed to repair torn ligaments or to improve position and function, as is the case with a lateral release of the patella. Orthopedic equipment, such as a walker or cane, is usually suggested to assist in post-operative recovery from these kinds of procedures.


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