How Pediatric Orthotic Bracing Helps Cerebral Palsy

How Pediatric Orthotic Bracing Helps Cerebral Palsy

Wednesday, 02 November 2022 09:54

Cerebral palsy is perhaps the most diagnosed childhood motor disability in the United States, with 10,000 kids born annually adding to that number. It is a group of associated disorders caused by abnormal brain development or damage. 

It presents as difficulty or an inability to adequately control muscles, which results in a patient having difficulty moving, balancing, or maintaining good posture. Cerebral palsy is a condition that can range from slight uncoordinated movements to needing full assistance when walking. 

How Pediatric Orthotic Bracing Helps Cerebral Palsy

While cerebral palsy has no cure, it is a well-documented condition, and there are a number of common treatments doctors and patients can choose to help improve their quality of life. These treatments include medicines, surgery, physical therapy, and orthotic devices. 

Pediatric bracing covers a wide range of ages, from toddlers to young adults. Pediatric braces must be designed to keep a child's functional needs in mind. For children on the younger end, that focus might be on stability and structure, but as they grow older orthotic devices designed to allow for more mobility are required.

Regardless, each patient is unique in personality and needs. Pediatric bracing devices should be custom fitted to address individual requirements. Today we will take a look at how pediatric orthotics can help children diagnosed with cerebral palsy. 

Understanding How Cerebral Palsy Affects Movement

As we mentioned above, cerebral palsy is more common than most people think, with about 1 in every 323 receiving a diagnosis within a year or two of birth. One reason most people don’t realize how prevalent it is, is because it can be fairly mild. 

Most people (80%) with cerebral palsy have “spastic cerebral palsy.” They have increased muscle tone, which results in stiff muscles and makes movement awkward. It can affect mainly the legs (spastic diplegia), one side of the body (spastic hemiplegia), or all four limbs, the trunk, and the face (spastic quadriplegia). Of these, spastic quadriplegia is the most severe.

Across all types, however, about half of all children diagnosed can still maintain their independent mobility. About 10% of children with CP walk using a hand-held mobility device, and with the use of cerebral palsy bracing, many more children are mobile.

How Orthotic Bracing Helps

Cerebral Palsy is not a progressive or degenerative condition. That is, it does not worsen as your child grows. In fact, some people see symptoms improve over time.

With the help of pediatric orthotic bracing, diagnosed children can enjoy a mobile and fun-filled childhood. Braces are used to compensate for deficiencies and to support and promote the movement control that is present. 

Pediatric orthotic bracing can help cerebral palsy patients in many ways, such as:

  • Correcting posture and skeletal misalignments
  • Minimizing the effects of limb spasticity
  • Providing support to movements and reducing the energy required
  • Reducing the risk of accidents or falls
  • Helping establish efficient gait
  • Prevention of deformity

Proper use of orthotic bracing in combination with therapy can help establish normal patterns of motion and enable the safe building of the strength required for independent movement. Orthotic bracing devices for the lower extremities are designed to help control movement without applying resistance to the desired or appropriate range of motion.

You will often hear them referred to in a few ways that denote the area or amount of coverage the device provides. 

  • Ankle Foot Orthoses (AFO): The most commonly prescribed pediatric brace orthosis, AFOs can be made of many different materials, including leather, silicone, or metal but are most commonly constructed of plastic.
  • Knee Ankle Foot Orthoses (KAFO): These types of braces extend further up the legs and help stabilize from the knees down.
  • Hip Knee Ankle Foot Orthoses (HKAFO): Covering the entirety of the lower extremity from the hips and lower, HKAFO bracing devices are the largest.

When your child is fit for a brace, the clinician should provide instructions on how the orthotic device functions, how to care for it, and tips for keeping your child comfortable during use. Some pediatric orthoses might only be worn during the day or when active. Others require continuous use.

Acclimating to Brace Use

While pediatric bracing will make movement more manageable, there is no denying the devices used can be relatively bulky and difficult to hide. Since plastic, the most common material, is highly customizable, you can choose the color and design of most pieces when picking out the device. 

Use this chance to let your kid express their personality. They’ll be more likely to embrace wearing the brace.

Work with your child’s physical therapist on how to move optimally in the device. They will help make sure the device is fitted correctly and help set goals to judge the progress made. A poorly fitted or misused device is going to be uncomfortable and challenging to get any child to wear or move in without a fuss.

Wearing an orthotic device can be a significant change. Your child will look to you for guidance on how to cope. Stay positive yourself, get support when needed, and patiently encourage.

Pediatric Orthotic Specialists

A cerebral palsy diagnosis and the need for long-term bracing can seem like an insurmountable task at first, but you won’t be going it alone. If your child’s pediatrician has recommended pediatric orthopedic bracing for mobility concerns, Orthopedic Appliance Company can help. We have provided Asheville residents with the highest quality custom pediatric orthotics since 1960.

Our facility and practitioners have met the rigorous standards and are certified by the American Board for Certification in Orthotics and Prosthetics. For children, orthopedic bracing must grow with them. We work with you, your child’s pediatric and rehabilitation teams, and their unique needs to develop braces that will work with, not against, your child’s development.

We have three convenient locations in Asheville, Fletcher, and Hickory, with more to come. Check to see which is closest, or send us a message with your concerns and location, and we will get you to the right place.