Orthosis – technical appliances bring relief

The orthosis is an orthopaedic device with a support and a posture correcting function. The technical help serves as stabilisation, immobilisation, load relief, guidance or correction of the body and the limbs concerned.

The definition of the term Orthotics is not easy. Simply said an orthosis transfers mechanical power from outside to the human body and therefore can positively influence the static and dynamic of the skeleton as well as the muscle apparatus. The medical reference book Pschyrembel writes about the application of orthopaedic braces with straps, trunk support
girdles or waist bands and corsets.

Orthotics, not Prosthetics

Orthotics is not to be confused with Prosthetics – often in the definition the differentiation is made between “depending on something” (orthotic) and instead of something” (prosthetic). Indeed orthoses as well as prostheses are very closely connected to the body, orthoses however are continually changing during the rehabilitation, prostheses on the other hand always stay the same. This is because the disability for which the prosthesis was built does not change. (i.e.  An amputation)

New positive resources

Orthotics allows the sustainment of a physical function or the development of a function that would not otherwise be possible. They do not however create or replace any functions; they only make it possible, for the patient to achieve them, if they have the necessary resources and willpower.  An orthosis can limit the effect of a disability and give the patient the possibility to find and accentuate his own positive strengths. The patient discovers new strength and feels much less restricted by the disability.

Stamina, performance, initiative and self-confidence all improve after the application of an orthosis. The greatest possible improvement of a function is the change in the self-assessment of the person with a handicap. Choosing to wear an orthosis means however that the wearer needs to accept that this will draw attention to his/her disability".

Criteria for using an Orthosis

There are various different requirements which need to be considered when choosing an orthosis, namely;
a) the movement segment
b) the movement apparatus
c) the movement system
d) the movement function.
These choices need to be made independent of respective segment and orthosis type as well as the planned use of the orthosis.

The goal defines the application

The application and forms of orthoses are very varying – depending on the goal of stabilisation, immobilisation, load relief, guidance or correction. The Pschyrembel gives the leg orthosis as an example of a stabilising orthosis used for paralysis or contractions. The "Thomas-Splint" (Thomas-Schiene) is an example of a load relieving orthosis, which is used to take the weight off the hip and knee joint of children. Orthoses that are used to immobilise, are for example “Hip splints” for the hip in the form of a pelvic harness.

Sources: „Orthesenversorgung/Infantile Zerebralparese“ from Adriano Frerrari, specialist for Neurology, Neuro-psychiatry und Rehabilitation.

Author: (pg), 30.7.2007, translation: PmcC