Orthotics (Greek: Ορθός, ortho, “to straighten” or “align”) is a specialty within the medical field concerned with the design, manufacture and application of orthoses. An orthosis (plural: orthoses) is “an externally applied device used to modify the structural and functional characteristics of the neuromuscular and skeletal system”. An orthosis may be used to:
- Control, guide, limit and/or immobilize an extremity, joint or body segment for a particular reason
- To restrict movement in a given direction
- To assist movement generally
- To reduce weight bearing forces for a particular purpose
- To aid rehabilitation from fractures after the removal of a cast
- To otherwise correct the shape and/or function of the body, to provide easier movement capability or reduce pain
Orthotics combines knowledge of anatomy and physiology, pathophysiology, biomechanics and engineering. Patients benefiting from an orthosis may have a condition such as spinal bifida or cerebral palsy, or have experienced a spinal cord injury or stroke. Equally, orthoses are sometimes used prophylactically or to optimize performance in sport.