I have ankle osteoarthritis. My doctor thinks I should get a plastic brace for my foot and ankle. How is this going to help me walk better?
Pain in any joint from arthritis can slow a person down and increase their overall fatigue. The major goal of bracing is to keep the joint in good position and control motion. The result should be to reduce pain and fatigue.
The type of brace can make a difference. Most of today's bracing is with a rigid plastic called polypropylene. If the brace supports the calf, ankle, and foot, then it's called an ankle-foot orthosis. Some orthoses start midcalf and support the hindfoot. Others support the hindfoot and the forefoot.
Studies show that wearing an orthosis gives better control over the ankle than just wearing a pair of standard shoes. With a good brace, deformity of the ankle can be corrected for arthritis patients.
With the right orthosis, you may be painfree longer each day. This would allow you to walk further. You may also be able to manage more difficult surfaces such as uneven slopes or ramps. Try to get an orthoses that restricts motion of the painful joint but still allows motion in the rest of the foot. Your doctor or the orthotist (person who makes orthoses) will help you with this.Yu-Chi Huang, MD, et al. Effects of Ankle-Foot Orthoses on Ankle and Foot Kinematics in Patients with Subtalar Osteoarthritis. In Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. August 2006. Vol. 87. No. 8. Pp. 1131-1136