Have you ever seen a garden plant that has a hard time staying upright on its own? Simply attaching it to a stake helps the plant stay strong and stable so that it can go on with the business of growing. Similarly, if you are having trouble standing or walking, you might just need a little help. An Ankle Foot Orthosis, or AFO, can give you just the support you need to feel strong and stable during your day-to-day activities.
An AFO is a splint or brace typically constructed from plastic, that helps keep your ankle and foot in proper position. This L-shaped splint wraps around your lower leg and ankle and under your foot. When it is in place, standing and walking is facilitated. This is especially beneficial for lower limbs that have been weakened by injury or by such conditions as drop foot, flat feet, or arthritis. In addition, AFOs help correct abnormal gaits, improve mobility and balance, reduce fatigue, and even help prevent tripping and falling. A little support goes a long way!
Types of Ankle Foot Orthosis
Orthoses can be flexible or rigid and designed in two different ways according to your needs:
Hinged—a mechanical joint is incorporated into the design of this splint, fitted at the ankle to provide support and stabilization with movement. A backstop behind the ankle helps correct plantarflexion, or toe walking. This type of AFO manages pronation, stabilizes the ankle, and reduces forefoot abduction or adduction (abnormal rotation).
Fixed—this splint is all one piece and solid. It is still L-shaped, but without the movable joint at the ankle. This design is most effective at preventing toe walking and keeping the ankle from moving sideways. It is also utilized to provide stability for shortened muscles or tendons.
Gauntlet—these more flexible braces are for those who find it difficult to wear the rigid fixed or hinged variety. They are ideal for treating many common ankle injuries, reducing ambulation pain, maintaining foot and ankle position, and slowing the progression of deformity. The flexible material is less bulky and more comfortable, so long-term use is more plausible. Gauntlet AFOs provide protection against friction, which is a diabetic-friendly feature, and are especially popular with those suffering from painful conditions like posterior tibial dysfunction and arthritis.
Designed to Help
No matter what type of orthosis you choose, they are all designed with one thing in mind—stability. Every style features a closely molded heel, good arch support, movement control, and contoured sole plates that assist in tone reduction. They all promote a stable base and encourage proper standing position with equal weight bearing on each foot. Toe and metatarsal support is also provided.
If you are having trouble standing or walking, and your feet are feeling weak and unstable, an ankle foot orthosis can give you the support you need to feel strong and able to conquer your day-to-day activities, and more!
Contact Dr. Craig H. Thomajan DPM, FACFAS and Dr. Shine John DPM, FACFAS of Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists in Austin TX. They can help you decide if an AFO is right for you. Call (512) 328-8900 for an appointment today.
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