Orthotics is a branch of medicine dealing with the manufacture and use of orthoses, also called orthotics, devices to correct a patient's physical posture and function. They help patients with a number of conditions, from stroke to congenital deformity. The field serves to maximize function and mobility, minimize pain, and prevent the progression of a physical abnormality. A simple example with which many people are familiar is the insole, placed in a shoe to support and cushion the foot, preventing foot and leg pain.
It is possible to customize orthotics to the patient or create prefabricated ones. Many ready-made ones are available in drug stores. In addition to insoles, these may include knee, ankle, or wrist braces used to support compromised joints. It is important to wear only orthotics that fit comfortably, as they may otherwise cause more problems than they solve. They may also be custom fit; one example is a cast used to support and immobilize a broken limb while the bone heals. Other custom appliances may be more similar to a store-bought brace, but made to fit the patient perfectly.
Orthotics may be used to address a specific malformation or other medical problem, or they may simply be used to support the body and promote comfort in one's everyday activities. Those who engage regularly in sports activities or who have a physically rigorous job can benefit from these devices. Insoles may be perfect for those who spend a lot of time on their feet, while a person who does heavy lifting for his or her job may benefit from an elastic back brace.
There are a range of range of prices, functions, and sophistication in orthotics. They can be made of elastic fabric and plastic, or leather and metal. The level of support a patient needs depends upon his or her specific concerns or condition. If a person simply wishes to give himself a little added everyday support, his local drug store can be the perfect place to shop for these devices, but for more serious pain and posture issues, a medical professional should be consulted.