Silver Fabric Brings Benefits to O&P

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Besides millennia as a sought-after precious metal for money, jewelry, and household items, silver also provides many health benefits. The ancients knew about this secret of silver: for instance, the Romans used silver to cover wounds to promote healing. Pirates on the high seas and American pioneers traveling west dropped silver coins in water barrels to keep their water clean.

Long before that, in the sixth century B.C., Cyrus the Great, king of Persia, a man of vision who established a board of health and medical dispensary for his citizens, used silver to keep water clean on long journeys.

In 1884, German obstetrician F. Crede discovered that a silver nitrate solution dropped into infants' eyes right after birth would kill the microbes that had caused blindness in generations of babies.

Today, the precious metal is used in a range of electrical, mechanical, optical, and medicinal applications.

Medicinally, due its superb broad-spectrum antimicrobial properties, silver is used in a variety of healthcare products ranging from bandages to burn care treatments to catheters--many products in which infection control is critical.

Fiber Finds Many Uses

Acor's X-STATIC®
Acor's X-STATIC® "the silver fiber™"

Among the newer developments in silver technology is X-Static® - The Silver FiberTM, produced by Noble Fiber Technologies, Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania. Although giants such as Dow Chemical, DuPont, and Smith & Nephew are pouring money into developing ways to use silver and other agents for antibacterial textiles, the small company of Noble Fiber has gotten the jump, noted an article in Forbes magazine by Susan Kitchens (October 27, 2003). The company has licensed its silver-coated fibers under the X-Static brand to more than 100 manufacturers, the article reported, including Marks & Spencer, Adidas, Puma, Spyder, and Johnson & Johnson.

The Silver Institute, a nonprofit international association comprising members from the silver industry ( www.silverinstitute.org), reported that athletes from about 60 countries wore X-Static socks in the 2004 Olympics; NASA and the European Space Agency astronauts wear them; and some US forces in Iraq use them. "X-Static fibers are being fabricated into clothing in almost every country in the world and are incorporated into wound care products," according to the Institute.

Active wear is incorporating X-Static, according to WCPO-TV, Cincinnati, Ohio. The station tested the wear and found that it stayed fresh and odorless despite intensive workouts and was still going strong after many washings.

The fiber provides other benefits. "Besides its bactericidal abilities, X-Static, as its name implies, acts as an anti-static and as a good thermal regulator, two other notable properties of the metal," the Forbes article pointed out.

O& P Jumps on Bandwagon

Knit-Rite SmartKnit AFO Socks
Knit-Rite SmartKnit AFO Socks

Some orthotics- and prosthetics-related products have also jumped on the X-Static bandwagon. Knit-Rite Inc., Kansas City, Kansas, notes that it was the first to bring silver's antimicrobial and therapeutic qualities to the O&P community with an entire family of products constructed with X-Static. Knit-Rite products with the silver fabric include a recent innovation, the Compressogrip® A/K Prosthetic Shrinker and the traditional B/K Compressogrip Shrinker. "The manufacturer has also received testimonials that the X-Static shrinker has helped patients find relief from phantom pain," Knit-Rite said.

Knit-Rite has also added a new version of its Soft-Sock®, which it notes is the original CoolMax®/Lycra® prosthetic sock. The new version incorporates X-Static to inhibit odor and infection. The Soft-Sock with X-Static is soft and cuddly and offers moisture-wicking and thermodynamic properties, plus enough stretch for excellent fitting qualities, according to the company.

Juzo Silver Compression Stockings
Juzo Silver Compression Stockings

Juzo/Julius Zorn Inc., Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, now offers Juzo® Silver Compression Stockings, knitted with 23-percent X-Static silver threads. The addition of silver makes the product naturally antimicrobial, anti-odor, and cool-wearing, the company pointed out. The company also provides Juzo Silver Stump Shrinkers to help control postoperative edema and maintain the shape of the residual limb. The company said that the shrinkers have shown promise in reducing or eliminating phantom pain. "We are excited at the prospect that Juzo Silver Stump Shrinkers may help those who suffer from phantom pain," said Eddie Scott, director of product development. "We remain committed to continuing our research in this area."

The Juzo website presents a possible explanation of how silver may work to reduce phantom limb pain: "Ongoing research in this area should give us a greater understanding of how and why silver garments--and other metallic garments--seem to alleviate phantom pain. The present theory is that amputees are sometimes left with free nerve endings, which become hyper-sensitized to electronic and magnetic radiation. Many amputees report that incidents of phantom pain are exaggerated around electrical equipment or radio transmitters. Silver is not only an excellent conductor, but it is also an excellent barrier. The silver threads form an ionic 'shield' which effectively repels electromagnetic radiation and thus protects the sensitive nerve endings from being bombarded with this form of stimuli. Inasmuch as Juzo silver garments contain a much higher concentration of silver, they are more likely to shield out more of the electromagnetic waves which could otherwise touch off phantom pain."

Acor Sole Defense® Broadway shoe
Acor Sole Defense® Broadway shoe

Acor, Cleveland, Ohio, has enhanced its entire line of footwear with X-Static and renamed the line Sole Defense® Footwear. Each shoe has now been lined with the fabric, according to Jeff Binczyk, Acor vice president of sales and marketing. Individual shoe names--BroadwayTM, RiverWalkTM, Comfort StreetTM, Spring StreetTM, and ActivzTM--will remain the same, Binczyk said. Noting that diabetic feet often harbor bacteria, fungi, and odor, Binczyk said, "Imagine being able to eliminate 99.9 percent of bacteria and odor from the shoe, while at the same time minimizing blisters and hot spots that can lead to more serious foot problems. This is what X-Static does."

Testing Proves Antimicrobial Power

The silver-coated nylon thread has had its bactericidal value established by laboratories at Pennsylvania State University, according to the Silver Institute. The Forbes article by Susan Kitchens reported that, besides Pennsylvania State, Cornell University and Yang-Ming Medical College, Taipei, Taiwan, also substantiated the fabric's antibacterial properties. X-Static was also shown to nearly eliminate the presence of T. mentagrophytes (the fungus that causes athlete's foot) within 48 hours, Kitchens noted. On its website, Noble Fiber Technologies lists other independent studies.

How Does It Work?

How does X-Static work? Kitchens answers colorfully: "Simply put, silver kills bacteria by strangling the little buggers. In a warm, moist environment, silver ions, which are highly 'bioreactive'--meaning that they are itching to combine with other substances--bind with proteins inside and outside bacterial cell membranes. This inhibits cell respiration and reproduction. (Don't worry: Silver ions don't easily penetrate mammalian cell walls.) The warmer and moister an environment is, the more effective the reaction, which explains the suitability to workout gear."

According to Noble Fiber, the silver will last as long as the garment. Although the amount of silver varies, depending on the specific product, X-Static generally contains about 15 percent silver, the company said. Regarding allergies, the company notes that there have been no documented cases of allergies to pure silver, which is used in X-Static. Although some people believe they are allergic to silver jewelry, the jewelry is "made of an alloy called 'sterling silver' and the people are allergic to the various other metals in its makeup," the company pointed out.

Silver can indeed impart health and comfort benefits with few, if any, side effects. And now O&P practitioners and their patients can enjoy the benefits of this precious metal with its antimicrobial, temperature-regulating, anti-odor, and anti-static qualities.

For more information about X-Static, visit www.x-static.com; for more information about products mentioned in this article, visit www.knitrite.comwww.juzousa.com, and www.acor.com

Note: The O&P EDGE does not endorse any products; product information is presented here as representative and for reader information only.