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updated:
January 6, 2023
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Eddie Zepeda

Orthotics for Cerebral Palsy: Everything You Need to Know

Kids Orthotics

An orthotic is a wearable medical device used to manage Cerebral Palsy. Since the condition generally affects movement at a young age, early use of specialized leg braces for Cerebral Palsy can significantly minimize complications and maximize functional independence.

PrimeCare has created many custom orthotics in Albuquerque and Las Cruces for Cerebral Palsy patients. This blog will discuss the different orthoses available and how they help manage this congenital movement disorder.

Types of Leg Braces for Cerebral Palsy

There are many Cerebral Palsy leg braces and orthotics to help your child maintain their level of mobility or correct physical issues preventing them from being fully ambulatory.

Lower Limb Orthotics for Cerebral Palsy

The primary aim of orthotic treatment is to improve function and gait by providing support, correction, and prevention. It's important to mention that there is no one-size-fits-all approach.

At PrimeCare, we offer the following types of leg braces for Cerebral Palsy:

  • Foot orthoses (F.O.): specialized shoe inserts designed to help support the feet and improve foot posture to increase stability during standing and walking.
  • Supramalleolar orthosis (SMO): inner shoe orthosis that stabilizes the ankle, providing medial and lateral support while allowing the foot to point and flex.
  • Ankle foot orthoses (AFO): designed to stabilize joints and improve the gait and physical functioning of the affected lower limbs.
  • Knee orthoses: these orthoses address arthritis-related pain by improving knee stability and alleviating arthritis-related pain.
  • Hip abduction orthosis: walking, standing, or sitting with hip abduction orthosis increases stability by preventing certain movements.

It is possible to get leg braces with locks for Cerebral Palsy, depending on your child's specific needs.

Spinal Orthotics for Cerebral Palsy

cp brace

Various types of Cerebral Palsy braces are available for spinal deformities. These braces are not prescribed to stop scoliosis progressions but instead to improve sitting and balance. For example, when spinal deformities become apparent during a child's growth spurt period, a thoraco-lumbo-sacral brace can help them sit comfortably. In some cases, spinal C.P. braces can be used instead of seating devices if a child is not a candidate for surgery.

Upper Limb Orthotics for Cerebral Palsy

Orthoses for the upper extremities provide support and corrective functions for the fingers, wrists, elbows, arms, and shoulders. Upper extremity orthoses have been largely overlooked in treating Cerebral Palsy, but they improve children's grip, movement, and carrying skills.

Cerebral Palsy Leg Complications

Children with Cerebral Palsy have problems moving and maintaining balance and posture. Because Cerebral Palsy occurs before birth, when damage is done to the immature, developing brain, early signs and symptoms only appear during infancy or preschool.

Symptoms generally involve exaggerated reflexes, floppiness or spasticity of the limbs and trunk, unusual posture, involuntary movements, and unsteady walking.

Many children with Cerebral Palsy have difficulty swallowing and have eye muscle imbalances, resulting in their eyes not focusing on the same thing. They also experience muscle stiffness leading to a reduced range of motion.

A Cerebral Palsy leg brace can treat secondary musculoskeletal problems such as muscle contractures and bony deformities. Cerebral Palsy children's gait and function will deteriorate in less than two years if a Cerebral Palsy AFO is not prescribed.

Goals of Orthotics for Cerebral Palsy Management

PrimeCare's AFO solutions for Cerebral Palsy aim to help patients in the following ways:

  • Correct and/or prevent deformity: mobile joint deformities can be corrected passively, and their position maintained using ankle-foot orthoses for Cerebral Palsy. Keeping muscles in an extended position may also prevent or reduce the rate of progressive contractures.
  • Provide a base of support: a CP brace improves sitting balance and stability. Similarly, standing frames use hip-knee-ankle-foot-orthoses to control body position and wide bases of support to provide upright postural stability.
  • Facilitate training: body segments encased in orthoses can maintain ideal biomechanical alignment within the orthosis. Training on unrestricted parts of the body where a child has better control may enable them to overcome activity limitations.
  • Improve gait efficiency: children who can walk upright must be encouraged to optimize their ability to achieve an efficient gait.

Types of AFOs for C.P. Patients

cerebral palsy leg braces

There are numerous types of braces for Cerebral Palsy to help keep legs straight and improve walking in children and adults.

A Leaf-Spring AFO

Leaf Spring AFOs have a lightweight, flexible, slim design that lifts the foot off the ground. It prevents Cerebral Palsy feet from falling and hitting the ground when walking.

The Solid-Ankle AFO

A rigid ankle-foot orthosis (AFO) is commonly used to prevent foot drop during the swing phase. Stabilizing the foot and ankle promotes healing, reduces pain, and manages severe spasticity.

An Articulating AFO

With an articulated Cerebral Palsy ankle brace, ankle motion is controlled based on medical necessity and gait analysis. It can be fabricated with a molded inner bootie to improve Cerebral Palsy feet alignment.

Floor Reaction Orthosis (FRO)

Children with Cerebral Palsy who walk with excessive ankle dorsiflexion during the stance phase of gait may benefit from a floor-reaction ankle-foot orthosis.

Benefits of Wearing Orthotics for Cerebral Palsy

In addition to improving strength, comfort, and independence, AFO braces for Cerebral Palsy help build physical stability and inner confidence.

#1 Manages Spasticity

Spasticity is one of the most common secondary effects of Cerebral Palsy. Wearing an orthotic device can help significantly reduce the impact of spasticity on the affected area(s).

By holding the body part in place, orthotics minimize further tightening of spastic muscles and prevent unwanted movements. They also stretch tight muscles, even when the individual is not actively moving, which minimizes spasticity progression.

#2 Corrects Posture

People with low abdominal muscle tone often have poor trunk stability and balance skills, compromising their posture. Similarly, high muscle tone can force the body into abnormal positions. Wearing a trunk brace may help combat these complications. It should provide the structural support and stability needed to sit upright comfortably.

#3 Decreases Pain

cerebral palsy braces

The musculoskeletal system is strained by spasticity, which may contribute to chronic pain. In children with Cerebral Palsy, musculoskeletal pain can disrupt sleep, affect mood, and hinder growth. By correcting musculoskeletal alignment, orthotics relieve pain caused by excessive pressure on muscles, bones, and joints.

#4 Minimizes Deformity

Individuals with Cerebral Palsy who suffer from motor impairments typically show these symptoms in their early childhood, which can severely affect their growth and development.

Children may develop deformities when their muscles remain contracted for a prolonged period while growing. Leg braces for toddlers with Cerebral Palsy can correct abnormal positions before they become problematic.

#5 Custom-Made

Although not all orthotics are custom-made, those prescribed by a medical professional usually are. As each body is different, ensuring your child's Cerebral Palsy brace is a good fit is crucial for maximum support and effectiveness.

#6 Improves Functional Abilities

Individuals with Cerebral Palsy generally require more energy to perform movements because they struggle with motor control, posture, and balance. Cerebral Palsy orthosis stabilizes and supports the body's musculoskeletal alignment to promote better form and minimize excess strain. As a result, energy is conserved and irregular movements are discouraged.

#7 Low Risk

Using a Cerebral Palsy foot orthosis is low risk. Since orthotics are wearables, they can be taken off if they cause distress to the wearer. Therefore, orthotics are an excellent, non-invasive, and relatively affordable method of delaying or avoiding surgery.

#8 Affect the Child's Self-Esteem

Cerebral Palsy leg braces for kids can lead to increased strength, balance, comfort, and independence. Essentially, orthotics is about helping a child maintain their level of mobility or correct physical issues preventing the child from being fully mobile. More often than not, this improves a child's self-esteem.

How Long Should Individuals with Cerebral Palsy Wear Orthotics?

cerebral palsy brace

Your child's Cerebral Palsy severity will determine how long they need orthotics. As each Cerebral Palsy case is unique, a personalized rehabilitation approach is ideal. It is possible for some individuals only to wear their orthotics for a few minutes a day, while others may need to wear them throughout the day or at night.

Neuroplasticity refers to the brain's ability to rewire itself, allowing functions affected by brain damage to be reorganized to healthy areas. People with Cerebral Palsy can train their brains to make adaptive changes and improve their motor abilities by utilizing neuroplasticity.

Repeatedly practicing the functions they want to enhance promotes neuroplasticity. It stimulates the brain and reinforces the need for those functions.

Therefore, it is essential to avoid becoming overly dependent on orthotics and to understand how to wean your child off them. Orthotics can prevent your child from learning to engage their muscles if they rely on them too heavily.

In addition to promoting more natural movement, a child leg brace for Cerebral Palsy can correct form and combat spasticity. Talk to your child's therapist or doctor about gradually reducing the time the orthotic device is worn and beginning training without it once they get used to the corrected movement pattern.

Your child may no longer require a Cerebral Palsy foot brace as they practice a specific movement until the neural connections for that movement become stronger.

Tips for Parents to Help Their Child Adjust to Wearing Cerebral Palsy Braces

Psychological Tips

Every parent hopes for a seamless experience with orthotics, but the reality can be challenging for both them and their child.

As a result, it is essential to provide your child with the best support, whether it is physical or emotional. Therefore, you should first explain to your child how much the device will help them in the long run.

It's also necessary to:

  • Describe how leg braces for kids with Cerebral Palsy enable them to move and play with others.
  • Ensure your child has answers to questions about the device in case other children ask
  • Encourage them not to view the devices as obstacles but as something that makes them stronger, faster, and safer.
  • Provide your child with photos of young people or adults who use orthotics
  • Compliment them on their appearance and progress

A leg brace for your child with Cerebral Palsy plays a vital part in their overall treatment. Encourage open dialogue about what to expect and how the devices will affect their physical well-being and self-esteem.

Physical Tips

braces for cerebral palsy

Your child may experience frustration from wearing custom pediatric orthotics, even if they are correctly fitted. Depending on their treatment plan, a child may have to wear the device continuously, except when bathing, so it's understandable if your child feels uncomfortable.

To increase their comfort levels:

  • Ensure the orthotics are securely held and not too loose.
  • Check your child's skin is in good condition regularly. The brace should not be worn if the skin is raw or visibly damaged.
  • Consult your provider about gradually increasing your child's daily wear schedule.
  • Ensure that the device maintenance regimen is followed for proper cleaning, care, and storage.
  • Check the device periodically for cracks, tears, or undue wear.
  • Your child might have outgrown his orthotics if his toes extend beyond the device, he complains of pain, or he has red marks on his feet.
  • Some children experience excessive perspiration in their devices. It helps to change socks once or twice a day and wear socks made of appropriate materials. In certain orthotics, ventilation holes can be drilled in specific areas to reduce excessive sweating.

A parent can also use other strategies to help their child adjust to orthotics:

  • Ensure that the device is as comfortable as possible.
  • Comment on how much improvement has been made.
  • Pay attention to your child's skin condition - chafing can be a sign that the device is not fitted correctly.

And remember, the prosthetist working with your child will have a wealth of information about leg braces for children with Cerebral Palsy and how to emotionally support a child with movement emotionally. Our team at PrimeCare is always ready to help and guide your family through the rehabilitation process.

Conclusion

It's incredible how fast children grow. Therefore, it is essential to have a prosthetist who can create quality pediatric prosthetics and orthotics that adapt to the needs of each individual.

Kids with physical challenges and their families receive the best care and support from our staff.

Contact us today to arrange a free consultation. As a leading orthotics provider in New Mexico, we are passionate about helping people with Cerebral Palsy flourish and giving them the tools they need to live their lives to the fullest. And we also have leg braces for adults with Cerebral Palsy too.

Request an Evaluation

If you have questions or you are ready to talk about prosthetic options, feel free to schedule a consultation at our clinic.

A grandfather with a prosthesis walks with his grandchildren.

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