An ankle foot orthosis (AFO) is an external biomechanical device, which uses the lower limbs to stabilize the joints, and in turn, improve the physical function of the foot and ankle. It is mainly used as a supportive device through various gait stages, by improving the patient’s range of motion (ROM). We’re going to explain everything you need to know about AFOs.
What is Foot Drop?
Foot drop is defined as a lack of ability to raise the foot high enough during walking. Ankle dorsiflexion (lifting up foot) may be limited due to muscle weakness or paralysis, or a loss of sensory function in the ankle and toes. Ankle dorsiflexion normally occurs in the first half of the stance phase as a response to heel lift during gait.
What causes foot drop? There are several causes, including:
Ankle foot orthoses are devices that help people walk more normally, safely, and comfortably. AFOs can also provide therapeutic benefits for a person recovering from an injury or a leg amputation. An AFO is used to treat foot drop. Ankle-foot orthoses include braces and shoes with built-in devices.
An AFO brace is a supportive device worn around the ankle and foot, designed to hold the foot in a normal position (or as close as possible to normal) during walking or other movements. Ankle-foot orthoses work by transferring weight from the diseased or injured part of the lower leg to the healthy part of the lower leg.
Ankle-foot orthoses can be made to fit either on your left or right foot, depending on the type of weak muscle, nerve function, and strength you have in each leg. AFOs may include a heel lift to compensate for ankle dorsiflexion (bending forward) problems.
They may also include other features to help control the foot, ankle, and lower leg. Ankle-foot orthoses do not cure diseases or injuries. However, they can improve walking ability by limiting abnormal movements in the ankle and foot.
Why do AFOs work? Ankle foot orthosis works by supporting the ankle in a neutral position during functional weight-bearing during walking, which helps increase foot clearance and allows for proper heel strike of the contralateral foot.
How Does an AFO Brace Work?
AFO braces work by decreasing muscle contractions and balancing the Ankle DRG (Dorsal Root Ganglion). Ankle foot orthosis braces also allow for wear during nighttime, which is beneficial to the patient’s sleep cycle.
Ankle foot orthosis braces are required to have an Ankle Joint Range of Motion (ROM) of at least 20-30 degrees to prevent skin breakdown. Ankle foot orthosis braces should also be durable, comfortable, easy to care for, and functional. This ensures that the brace is worn properly during ambulation.
Types of AFO BracesThere are different ankle foot orthosis braces that are created for different purposes.
How to Select the Right Type of AFO Brace
There are a lot of things to consider when selecting an AFO brace. Every situation is different. You need to talk to your doctor first, so they can guide you through the process. Of course, there are certain things you should pay attention to, no matter how many options you have.
As you're comparing AFO braces, you need to consider:
With the right ankle foot orthosis, you will be able to walk more easily and comfortably than before. A proper AFO brace will relieve most of your symptoms and allow you to live your life to the fullest. If you need any consultation regarding AFO braces, don’t hesitate to contact the Align Clinic, talk to one of our experts.
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