How to Improve Mobility with Lower Leg Orthotic Devices

Tuesday, 26 November 2019 09:37

When you are dealing with an injury, structural defect, or deformity of the lower leg, one of the biggest concerns is, “Will I be able to live a normal, healthy, active life? Will I be able to participate in the activities I love?” The answer: why not? You don’t have to let these issues stop you. While there are often accommodations that must be made (perhaps just in the beginning or perhaps continuing as you recover and gain strength), you can improve mobility with lower leg orthotic devices - and work towards your health, fitness, and lifestyle goals.

Types of Lower Leg Orthotic Devices

Depending on your specific condition and needs, you may need solutions such as:

  • Foot Orthotics (e.g. inserts)
  • Ankle Supports
  • Ankle/Foot Orthoses
  • Knee Ankle Foot Orthoses 
  • Lower Extremity Soft Supports
  • Knee Immobilizer
  • Lower Extremity Fracture Orthosis or Distal Tibia/Fibular Fracture Orthosis
  • Reciprocating Gait Orthosis 

Reaching Your Mobility Goals 

Your healthcare team and orthotic/orthopedic appliance provider will help you find the right solution for your needs, as well as achieve the right fit. This is essential in improving mobility: while lower leg orthotic devices do take some getting used to, they should not leave you in pain or frustrated. With proper fittings, training, and physical therapy, if applicable, you will be ready to get started with your goals in no time.

The key to improving mobility with lower leg orthotic devices is to manage your expectations. For example, one of the most oft-repeated activity goals is taking 10,000 steps per day. This, and other standard fitness benchmarks may be problematic for you as the duration and intensity of physical activity may be unrealistic for you at this point. 

Many experts who specialize in lower extremity issues say that a “stepped approach” is necessary. Dr. Mark D. Peterson, assistant professor in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the University of Michigan, says:

We need to take a step back and look at what a person is doing and then find ways that we can introduce some activity in small doses that the person can achieve. And then over time we highly recommend that people continue to progress if possible, but attaining more of a minimalist perspective instead of a maximalist perspective in exercise.

In other words, do what you can do now - and keep adding a bit more. Then a bit more. Set achievable goals. If 10,000 steps is too intense, aim for 4000. If hiking a mountain is too difficult now, start with brisk walking and gradually introduce gentle hills or inclines. Your goals should be unique to you - not based on guidelines developed for people without disabilities or mobility issues. 

Dr. Christopher Kevin Wong, associate director of the Program in Physical Therapy at Columbia University Medical Center, says:

You set up a goal, like exercise three times a week at thirty minutes a shot, and people can’t really reach that because of life timing or because of their physical state. Then they feel like they’re a failure or they feel like they can’t do it and are never going to be able to do it, and as a result, they don’t do anything. I would prefer to have more reasonable, attainable goals. Then if you’re able to do more, that’s great.

Don’t measure your ability or your progress based on that of other people. You’re unique, and you were dealt a different set of cards. So, as Dr. Wong says, set reasonable, attainable goals, and if and when you can do more, wonderful. Celebrate that extra step (or mile!). 

You can increase mobility - and quality of life - with lower leg orthotics. Contact Orthopedic Appliance Company to learn more about your options.