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Orthotics FAQs

Orthotics Frequently Asked Questions

Capstone O&P wants to make sure that no matter what stage you are in during your rehabilitation, you have the information that you need! Here is a list of commonly asked questions to help guide you through your journey.

What is an orthosis? In general, how does it work?

An orthosis is an external device that fits onto your affected limb to accommodate for limb weakness, deficiency, or deformity; correct or control limb alignment; aid in more efficient gait and improve functional tasks. Most patients are lower extremity orthotic users, therefore the primary goal is safe, efficient walking and increased balance and stability during activities of daily living. Orthotic devices can be made from various materials such as thermoplastic, carbon composites, metal and leather, or a combination of materials. Each orthotic is designed to meet the patient's specific needs and will encompass the affected region and possibly the proximally affected joint (example: knee and foot) to provide a three-point pressure system that controls the limb in all three planes: sagittal, coronal, and transverse. Orthotic devices come in a wide range of styles. No two custom orthotics are designed or aligned the same. Check out our Orthotic Services page for a more detailed breakdown of orthotic devices including lower extremity, upper extremity, and spinal.

How do I know if an orthosis will help me?

If you are experiencing reduced balance and stability, decreased functional ability with your limb, increased weakness and pain, have had a recent surgery that has not properly healed, have a congenital or acquired deformity, or have been told by your physician or physical or occupational therapist that an orthosis would benefit you; we would like to speak with you about how we can help! Contact us today for a free virtual or in-person consultation!

What can I do to prepare myself for getting an orthosis?

There is a lot you can do to set yourself up for success. If you are not currently under the care of a physical or occupational therapist, contact your physician and obtain a referral so that you can receive proper strength training and treatment prior to and after the delivery of your orthosis to achieve the best orthotic outcome. Exercise to build the muscles needed for balance and walking. Learn body positioning, stretching and strengthening to maintain muscle tone and prevent contractures. Obtain additional caregiver support if needed to aid in properly donning and doffing your device and performing any necessary at-home physical therapy programs that may be prescribed.

Will I need to use an assistive device like crutches, a cane, a walker, or a wheelchair once I get my orthosis?

Many active and minimally affected patients do not regularly use their assistive devices after getting an orthosis and completing physical therapy. Many others will use an assistive device when they cannot wear their orthosis or if they are having pain in their limb. Many patients with other orthopedic or neurological issues may rely on an assistive device and their orthosis to ensure safety or walk for prolonged periods of time. They may also use a wheelchair when caregiver help is unavailable or they are fatigued. Every patient's rehabilitation journey is unique, and it is encouraged to utilize an assistive device as long as needed to ensure safety and prevent falls.

After getting an orthosis, will there need to be more appointments and adjustments?

After getting your orthosis, you will need to follow up with your orthotist 2 weeks after delivery or on an as-needed basis. These visits are important to ensure that your orthosis is fitting and functioning optimally. Small adjustments can make a big difference. Proper fit of the orthosis and good alignment will make sure that the brace is working for you. It can also help prevent some secondary conditions individuals may experience such as skin breakdown or misaligned gait that could cause pain and damage to proximal joints.

What do I do if my orthosis is hurting my limb or causing skin breakdown or bruising?

If you notice any of the above while wearing your orthosis, you should call and schedule a follow-up appointment with your orthotist and avoid high-intensity activities or prolonged walking and standing if you can. Ignoring any signs of excessive pressures or skin breakdown can lead to non-healing or infected wounds that could cause you to have to stay out of your orthosis entirely and leave you reliant on assistive devices such as crutches or a wheelchair until you heal completely.

What do I do if I notice that my brace is making noises, parts are rotating or moving out of place or that the orthosis is generally not functioning properly?

If you notice any of the above while wearing your orthosis, you should call and schedule a follow-up appointment with your orthotist and avoid high-intensity activities or prolonged walking and standing if you can. Continuing to use your orthosis after you have noticed that the components are not functioning properly or making noise can cause the brace to catastrophically fail which could lead to a significant fall or severe injury.

How long does an orthosis last?

Depending on the type of orthosis and what material it is made out of, an orthosis may last 3-5 years or longer under normal wear and tear depending on how active you are and what activities you are participating in. The smaller or more delicate parts such as joints, wedges, padding and straps may fail prior to that timeframe and need to be replaced sooner. These parts may or may not be covered by your insurance to repair depending on the circumstances around the failure and the coverage of your specific insurance policy. If your limb volume or weight fluctuates significantly or an anatomical change has occurred such as surgery to the area or the formation of a new deformity such as contracture, your orthosis may need to be replaced sooner. Multiple adjustments, padding, and other methods would be used to modify the brace to accommodate for your limb change. Once these modification techniques have been exhausted and if no adequate remedy is found, a new orthosis could be justified to your insurance provider if proper documentation is obtained from your physician. Maintaining a stable weight through proper diet and exercise, maintaining a stable limb volume through the use of a compression hose if swelling is an issue, and wearing your orthosis consistently is of the utmost importance when extending the life of your orthosis.

What maintenance does my orthosis need?

Every orthosis is unique and has a customized selection of components and parts. Therefore, each orthotic maintenance plan is different. That being said, it is best to go over the specific routine maintenance that your orthosis requires when your device is delivered. A general rule of thumb is that you should follow up with your orthotist every year so that they can assess how your orthosis is fitting and functioning. During these appointments, routine maintenance should be performed if needed on the orthotic components such as: lubrication of any joints; checking for cracks in the material, moving screws and padding for excessive wear and tear; and inspecting your limb for areas of excessive pressures and skin breakdown.



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