A team of researchers undertook a study to examine the immediate and long-term effects of different types of AFOs on postural responses in patients who wore AFOS due to walking disorders. They found that long-term use of an AFO can be important for improving posture among this patient population. The study was published online ahead of print on August 1 in the Journal of Rehabilitation Research & Development.
Researchers evaluated 37 patients who had various pathological conditions, who visited an outpatient clinic for orthotics because of walking problems, and who had no other impairments that could influence balance. Participants were divided into four groups according to the type of AFO that they wore. Postural responses were assessed with and without the AFO using two force plates following perturbations in different directions at the pelvis level. The center of pressure was examined in the sagittal and frontal planes and compared with the normative data from healthy individuals.
The results showed an improvement in postural responses to the lateral and backward perturbation directions when wearing the AFO, particularly responses in the anterior-posterior direction. The best results were achieved with the custom-made posterior leaf spring AFO for correction of equinovarus deformity. The researchers determined that the time of wearing the AFO had an impact on postural responses in perturbation directions where the patients could not rely only on the AFO. The custom-made AFO improved overall postural responses, especially dynamic stability, in lateral directions, whereas all stiff AFOs contributed toward an improvement in responses to all perturbations to the affected side.