A Guide to Ankle Foot Orthoses
An AFO is basically a short acronym that is meant to describe an ankle foot orthosis. These are generally braces which are made entirely to support the foot and the ankle. Traditionally, they are used to help people walk better when they have some sort of instability or weakness. There are, of course, differences among these which are designed primarily for the foot and ankle. A traditional AFO is going to be different than a CAM Walker, a CROW, or a PRAFO, all of which are generally going to be for the ankle and foot as well.
Benefits of an AFO
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Traditional AFO’s have multiple benefits when you take a moment to think about it. They start by holding up the foot and ankle of the patient in such a position when they walk that it alleviates the risk of foot drop. This is particularly effective when your goal is to walk around without dragging your toes. The nice thing about AFOs are that, in addition to the aforementioned health benefits, the regular wear of them is not uncomfortable in the least. The only time that wearing an AFO presents any discomfort is if the foot drop has caused the ankle to be placed in a contracted state most of the time, in which case the AFO places it in a neutral position. The change from the contracted state to a neural AFO state might cause a stretch.
Improved Side-to-Side Stability
If you have side-to-side instability in your ankle, the use of an AFO can offer assistance. For example: if you know a person who often rolls their ankle when they walk, or if you are that person, it may be an indication that an ankle brace is needed. The brace will securely hold the foot and ankle in place, which then prevents excessive movements while walking. These excessive movements are what cause the ankle to roll repeatedly and stopping or limiting them can alleviate the risk of rolling.
Improved Knee Stability
While support might be indirect, the lever arm that is used in an AFO can offer support for your knee. How, you might ask? The height of the brace can inhibit knee hyper-extension. That means that the height of the brace (often these braces stop at the thickest part of the cafe) can stop the knee from snapping back and hyper-extending. In addition, if your ankle is maintained at a neutral position the knee will be much less likely to hyper-extend or buckle. In this way, the use of an AFO can definintely improve knee stability.
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