Orthotic treatments have become increasingly popular for people rehabilitating from stroke. A stroke is caused by a blockage or rupture of an artery that deprives a part of the brain from oxygen. The hemiparesis or hemiplegia often resulting from a stroke leave one side of the body weak or even completely paralyzed. Orthoses can be used to help regain function of a part of the body that has been damage during a stroke. Some popular options are the AFO (ankle foot orthoses) and the KAFO (knee ankle foot orthoses).
Gait abnormalities are the most common lower limb deformity occurring after a stroke. Making ankle-foot orthoses the most commonly prescribed tool for overcoming gait abnormalities after a stroke. Also referred to as AFOs these aids wrap around the ankle joint and the foot (or a portion of the foot) and help stroke survivors gain more control over motion, compensate for weakness, and correct deformity.
The two main types of AFO’s are articulated and non-articulated. Articulated AFOs have a mechanical joint at the ankle that control range of motion. Non-articulated AFO’s do not have a joint. Instead the range of motion is determined by the rigidity of the AFO at the ankle joint.
Knee-ankle-foot orthoses (KAFOs) and HKAFOs which incorporate the hip as well as the ankle, knee and foot are other options for improving gait, mobility and balance after suffering from a stroke. KAFOs and HKAFOs are more involved than AFOs and are often looked to as a last resort. This heavier bulkier orthoses requires more energy to move, this is believed to contribute to the higher patient rejection rate. These more elaborate orthoses also cost more making them a less attractive solution compared to the less conspicuous AFOs. That being said some patients have great success with the KAFOs in their rehabilitation after a stroke and they are still a viable solution for people who are not able to use an AFO or other electrical device.
Today there is also new technology available called electrical stimulation that uses electricity to stimulate the nerves that control the ankle-flexing muscles. This wireless electrical device runs off of a small battery and straps around your leg under the knee. The Bioness Ness L300 is an example of a popular electrical stimulation device created by Bioness to be a lighter more efficient alternative to the AFO for foot drop patients. Most agree that theBioness Ness L300 works at least as well if not better than the AFO alternatives while helping to improve strength, and endurance. Some experts believe the electrical stimulation devices help aid in recovery because unlike the AFO braces, electrical stimulation devices allow for full movement. The small piece of technology has also been credited for resulting in fewer injuries, increased circulation and increased bone density compared to the AFO counterpart.
To learn more about your rehabilitation options contact Teter Orthotics & Prosthetics, one of our trained professionals will be happy to answer your questions. Click one of the links below to find contact information on one of our many Michigan locations: