What Type of Orthotic Devices are Available to Help People With CP?

People with cerebral palsy often struggle with issues pertaining to strength and stability. In general, the more stability a person with cerebral palsy can experience, the better he or she can ambulate and complete activities of daily living. As a result, the better his or her quality of life will be. Orthotic devices are one way that people with cerebral palsy can experience greater stability and achieve independence.

Enhancing Capabilities and Quality of Life

The purpose of an orthotic device is not to create new skills; rather, it's to compensate for physical capabilities that don't exist and enhancing the skills that a child is born with. These devices help children achieve optimal functioning. In other words, orthotics and other medical devices help children reach their highest level of mobility by correcting inherent issues.

The practice of creating orthotics began in the 20th century and involved the creation of custom cushions and inserts specifically designed to meet a person's unique medical needs. These tools can be valuable in helping a person achieve comfort and stability.

What is an Orthotic Device?

An orthotic device is, in its simplest form, a brace that a person wears externally to achieve the best posture and mobility possible. This simplified explanation, however, does not do orthotics justice: in reality, these are complex devices custom designed to meet a patient's specific needs. Every aspect of an orthotic is customizable, from its materials to construction, even how it will aid in a child's development as he or she ages.

A child's orthotic needs may evolve as he or she ages and they respond to other therapies. In general, orthotic devices can treat and relieve symptoms of:

  • Hip or knee subluxation
  • Potential development of deformities, such as those occurring in the spine
  • Spastic movement
  • Pronation occurring from hypotonia (low muscle tone) or hypertonia (high muscle tone)
  • Drop-foot, which occurs from muscle weakness
  • Inversion of stride
  • Eversion of stride
  • Swing-phase inconsistency

Additionally, orthotic devices come in a variety of textures. They may be rigid, semi-soft, or soft, depending on the patient's need for stability. A physical therapist can help each family determine the correct construction and formulation for each orthotic device. Keep in mind that orthotic needs may evolve as a child develops.

Orthotic devices also come in many different materials. Some of the most common include:

  • Carbon fiber
  • Metal
  • Plastic
  • Polymers
  • Leather
  • Rubber
Orthotics and Cerebral Palsy

Experts estimate that around two-thirds of children with cerebral palsy can walk and move around to some degree. Because of the nature of the condition, however, ambulation may be difficult and affect the muscles, joints, and the creation of a steady gait. Orthotic devices work symbiotically with other medical interventions to achieve the following goals for a person with cerebral palsy:

  • Creation of a stable base for ambulating
  • Establishment of a steady gait
  • Minimizing any spasticity of muscles
  • Reducing the energy required to move
  • Increasing self-confidence and through improved ability to function physically
  • Strengthening any weak muscles
  • Preventing malformations of the spine
  • Reducing potential for injury-causing accidents
  • Reducing hyperextension of the hip or knee, which can cause missteps

Bringing the limbs into proper alignment is particularly important for children with cerebral palsy, as they are at high risk for malformation of the spine and other limbs. Orthotic devices also correct other common problems in children with cerebral palsy, such as toe-walking.

Orthotic interventions can have a significant effect on a child's quality of life and overall mechanics. These devices help children achieve a better range of motion, strengthened muscles, improved coordination and endurance, and more. Children often experience better physical and emotional outcomes thanks to these devices.