An ankle-foot orthosis (AFO) is an orthotic device which is designed to correct or address problems with the ankle and foot. In order for an ankle-foot orthosis to work properly, it is necessary that it be fitted to the patient. It does not necessarily need to be custom made, but it does need to be adjusted by a physician to confirm that it fits properly, and to check for comfort and wearability. If someone does not feel comfortable in an orthosis, the tendency may be to avoid wearing it, or to adjust it at home, both of which could result in a problem with the device.
Ankle-foot orthoses are one of the most common types of orthotic devices. They are used in a wide variety of situations, and made in several different styles. The configuration of the device includes hard plastic and adjustable soft straps, with the device holding the ankle and foot in place, while the straps allow some freedom of movement so that the patient can function. Specialty products are available for pediatric patients who cannot fit comfortably into devices sized for adults.
This type of device may be worn to correct a deformity, or to address ongoing issues with the ankle and foot such as muscle contractures, muscle weakness, loss of muscle control, and muscle wasting. The device stabilizes the ankle and foot in this place so that the patient can walk and enjoy more freedom of movement.
An ankle-foot orthosis can also be worn when a patient needs corrective bracing for a short period of time during injury recovery. Sprained ankles, tendinitis, and similar conditions can be treated with an ankle-foot orthosis, and an orthosis can also be used after surgery to provide support. This device is also used for conditions like unstable ankles, ankles and feet which permit an uncomfortable range of motion, flat feet, and foot drop.
It is important for patients to take the time to work with a physician to fit an ankle foot orthosis properly. During an initial session, patients should not be shy about problems they identify with the device. They should also contact their physicians to report problems which develop with wear. It may be necessary to try a different device or to adjust a device to achieve the desired effect. While it may sometimes feel like it, an ankle-foot orthosis is not actually designed to be a torture device, and pain, discomfort, and unreasonable limitations in movement are not intended to occur.