Orthotics For People Living With MS And ALS
People living with multiple sclerosis or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis in Tucson have special muscular concerns that increase over a prolonged period of time. Since movement and range of motion can be significantly hindered by these neuromuscular diseases, many people who have these concerns will utilize custom orthotics to counterbalance some side effects they experience.
Not all patients will benefit from the use of orthotics, particularly those who are experiencing advanced stages of their diseases. Many patients find that utilizing orthotics as a part of their treatment plan at the onset of their mobility troubles allows them to maintain their independence for longer and complete everyday tasks with less discomfort or complication.
How Neuromuscular Diseases Affect The Body
MS (multiple sclerosis) and ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) have some overlap in the systems they affect, but each affects the body as a whole in a different way. MS is slightly more common than ALS and moves slowly. Many people live with MS for as long as 20 years before becoming significantly disabled by the disease, whereas the progression of ALS is such that the majority of patients will be completely disabled in as little as three years.
MS is an autoimmune disease that causes chronic and persistent inflammation. This inflammation inflicts permanent damage to the nerves, preventing them from communicating properly with the brain. When the brain’s communication channels to the nerves weaken, movement and muscle response decline. This leads to deterioration of the muscles and an inability to complete routine physical tasks.
ALS directly affects the brain and its connection to the spinal cord. Neurons responsible for communicating with the body are lost, and over time, movement is no longer possible. The affects of ALS are the hardest to minimize, though many people living with the condition find that assistive devices allow them to retain normal function for as long as possible.
What Orthotics Can Do For People With Neuromuscular Diseases
Neuromuscular diseases like ALS and MS affect more than just the lower body, though lower body discomfort and a limited range of motion are affects of both diseases. Orthotics can help stabilize the lower body of neuromuscular disease patients, making it easier to walk without pain and maintain balance.
Patients who experience difficulty controlling the entirety of the leg might benefit from the use of a custom knee ankle foot orthosis, or KAFO. A KAFO is a device that starts above the knee and ends at the bottom of the foot. It encapsulates the whole leg, and features a bendable joint at the knee. The joint is designed to prevent hyperextension with a form fit around the kneecap, and a locking mechanism in the joint to regulate its function.
As an alternative, a solid ankle orthotic can be provided. These are hard orthotic devices that do not move, making them the last choice for many people due to their inconvenience. These devices work by utilizing counter resistance to handle spasticity in the ankle and instability in the knee.
At the very onset of a neuromuscular disease, posterior leaf spring ankle foot orthotics (AFOs) are the simplest solutions. Most patients find that the simplest solution is usually the best one. These devices are designed custom for the patient, considering factors like the level of strength and mobility that the patient usually possesses, as well as their body weight. Support is provided to the foot and the ankle. These are lightweight, low profile, and easy to use.
For people who need the maximum amount of support, an articulated AFO may be the answer. This device encompasses the entire leg, with hinges at the joints to allow for movement. Patients with severe instability who are still able to walk benefit from the added support and protection from an articulated AFO. Some patients report that the size and profile of the device make it cumbersome. For patients who aren’t concerned with the ability to conceal the device, an articulated AFO may be ideal.
Custom Orthotic Solutions That Provide Relief
Neuromuscular diseases affect everyone differently. It’s difficult to find an effective solution right out of a box. Patients with ALS and MS will benefit most from custom orthotics. These orthotics can be adjusted over time to maintain efficiency as the disease progresses within the patient. They can also be replaced with more specialized devices when the patient’s needs grow to be greater.
People with neuromuscular diseases need an orthotist who understands their needs and what the progression of their disease will mean for the future. They may need help maintaining and adjusting their device, as well as help determining when a new device would be able to provide a better solution to their concerns.
If you or someone you care for with a neuromuscular disease needs a custom orthotic solution in Tucson, we’re here to help.