What is Orthotics?
Orthotics is a speciality within the field of orthopaedic technology. Existing but impaired extremities are supported to perform their function or correct their position. To do so, orthoses are used, which are applied externally. They relieve, guide, correct, mobilise or immobilise and support functionally. By contrast, in prosthetics, extremities are replaced by appliances (prosthesis).
Orthoses for patients with paralysis, which are used on patients with paralysis of the lower extremities, perform the functions of the leg that cannot be performed by it any more. These functions are, for example, lifting the foot or securing the knee to prevent it from giving way, which, in the worst case, leads to falling.
Paralyses of individual foot and leg muscles are compensated by movements that balance out the impaired functions. This, for example, may lead to deformities of the spine. Wearing orthoses can prevent these secondary damages. In the long term, orthoses help saving costs in the healthcare system.
The primary function of the orthosis individually depends on the patient. Does the patient particularly require stability when standing? Does the mobility need to be improved? Is a foot lifting support required? All these questions are considered with the orthopaedic technician in order to plan the orthotic treatment in the best way possible.
Orthotics in History and Today
Even today, orthotics still does not receive very much attention, much in the contrast to prosthetics. Almost every one knows the term “prosthesis” whereas only few know orthoses. In society’s perception as well as in the orthopaedic technology sector itself, orthotics is still under-represented.
After World War I and II the number of invalids with amputation was high. Therefore, people with missing limbs were very present in the collective consciousness, as well as the natural desire to relieve the suffering of veterans with the help of prostheses. The need for development in orthotics and thus the inclusion of people with disabilities was not very present and therefore faded into the background.
For a long time, heavy side bars/bands orthoses made of steel and leather influenced the image of orthoses for patients with paralysis. Both the lack of comfort and the poor appearance lead to a low acceptability among patients. From the orthopaedic technicians’, physicians’ and qualified personnel’s point of view, there were not enough advantages to the functions of these orthoses. Even today, this image shapes the vision of patients and experts.
In the last few decades orthotics has been revived. During a short period of time, new materials, new innovative orthosis joints as well as elaborate mechanics and electronics lead to both the expansion of the orthoses’ range of function and the reduction of the orthoses’ weight.
Back then, a Knee-Ankle-Foot Orthosis made of steel and leather had a weight of 3 to 5kg while today’s orthoses weigh about 0.8 to 1.3kg. The comfort is also not comparable to historic orthoses. When imagining putting on an orthosis of cold steel, it is understandable that a warm, soft padding is far more comfortable on the skin. Modern, individual orthosis for patients with paralysis can be optically adjusted to the patient’s wishes. As a result, the acceptance of the appliance significantly increases.
The number of people affected by noncommunicable diseases increases in the so-called developed countries. These diseases in turn have further health effects like a stroke or heart attack. Today, many physical impairments can be treated well using orthotics.
A stroke, for example, can cause paralysis of arm and leg in the worst case. Lifting the foot and therefore walking without tripping is not always possible. An orthosis with a foot lifting joint supports during walking, supports the balance and provides stability when standing. The quality of life of many people can be significantly improved by orthotic treatment.
Orthotics is well on the way to moving out of its niche market. The goal has to be to provide people with a more enjoyable, mobile life with the help of orthoses. This requires a dismissal of the historical image from the public perception. FIOR & GENTZ has contributed its share for this purpose and continues to do so.
Orthotics at FIOR & GENTZ
FIOR & GENTZ specialises in the field of orthotics and particularly focuses on the lower extremity. The lack of development in this field as well as the simultaneously urgent need for action were the motivation for this orientation.
The goal is bringing orthotics out of its niche and providing more people with access to a better orthotic treatment.
Alongside innovative orthosis joints and therapeutic shoes, FIOR & GENTZ develops production techniques as well as concepts for orthothic treatment. Furthermore, the launch of the Orthosis Configurator in 2006 has lain the foundation of a transparent calculating system for orthoses. The load capacity of orthosis joints as well as the appropriate choice of materials and tools can be effectively calculated with the Orthosis Configurator.
Both in the section of ankle joints and knee joints, FIOR & GENTZ expanded the possibilities for individual treatment for patients with paralysis. Orthosis joints from FIOR & GENTZ are system joints: They are conceptionally and technically built in a manner that allows components and groups of components to be used repeatedly. The system joints have different functions, additional adjustment possibilities as well as, in many cases, the option of convertibility. This allows to actively react to the course of therapy.
At the same time, production techniques for processing the system joints have been steadily developed. The handicraft process is just as crucial for the performance as the product that is being used. Modern, light materials like carbon and aramid fibres as well as casting resins ensure an extreme weight reduction and a contemporary, harmonic appearance of orthoses.
In 2011, FIOR & GENTZ made an ambitious step in the conceptional direction and published the CP Guide. Based on years of experience in orthotics, scientific research as well as intercommunication with affiliated disciplines, a concept for orthotic treatment of CP patients was developed. An Apoplexy Guide followed in 2014 and the Guide to Spinal Cord Injuries in 2017.
These guides are supposed to initiate orthotic treatment for indications that have not been considered before.
Ever since the foundation of the company in 1997, the development of FIOR & GENTZ as well as the further development in orthotics for the lower extremities has made ground breaking advancements. There is a potential to provide a better quality of life for more people with the help of adequate orthotic treatment. FIOR & GENTZ strives to use this potential in the best way possible in the future.