How Upper Limb Orthoses Can Restore Function

Orthoses are simply external devices used to support an impaired or painful body part. They come in all shapes and sizes and encompass an array of types, including braces, splints, casts, and slings.

At Ortho Engineering, Inc., we custom design and manufacture all kinds of prosthetics and orthotic devices for people suffering from joint instability, neuromuscular diseases, deformities, and injuries, both acute and chronic. 

If you have a problem in one of your upper limbs — anywhere from your fingertips to your shoulder — an orthosis can be an integral part of your therapy and support the healing process as it supports your limb. Here’s what an upper limb orthosis can do.

The purpose of orthoses

Orthoses are designed to modify your musculoskeletal structure and/or control its movement and function. They’re used during the rehabilitation process for injuries and postoperative therapy and also relieve pain so you can more fully engage in physical therapy and other treatments.

Some orthoses are static, to prevent movement, and others are dynamic, to assist movement. The overriding goal of any orthosis is to improve function. They’re typically named for the joint or body part they treat. Upper limb orthoses include:

Each performs a different function, and we tailor yours to fit you perfectly and support your unique needs according to your physician’s specifications. Ultimately, orthoses restore the function of your limb by providing assistance in the following ways.

Pain relief

If you’ve sustained an injury to your shoulder, such as a dislocation or a torn rotator cuff, the pain can be excruciating and exacerbated by movement. An upper limb orthosis like a sling keeps your arm close to your body and out of harm’s way, reducing your pain.

Joint support 

Joints weakened by arthritis, tendonitis, or trauma may have limited range of motion, and this can occur in your hand, wrist, elbow, or shoulder. If you’re rehabilitating from a surgical procedure or a stroke, your shoulder joints may suffer from subluxation and need help maintaining position and alignment to support muscle and protect soft tissues.

Immobilization

Fractured bones need to remain as immobile as possible to keep them aligned and promote healing. If there’s significant swelling, you need a splint, which is rigid on one side but open on the other to accommodate inflammation. A full cast is a rigid device that wraps around the entire circumference of your arm. 

Prevent deformity

Left untreated, many injuries (especially fractures) will heal incorrectly and leave your hand, wrist, or arm deformed. An orthosis places your anatomy in an optimal healing position during the critical phase of your recovery that determines the future structure of the healed limb. 

Reduce spasticity

After a stroke or brain injury, it’s common for patients to experience upper motor neuron syndrome, which includes muscle weakness, loss of motor control, and involuntary movements. These symptoms can be so severe that they prevent participation in physical therapy and daily activities. Orthoses can help temper these symptoms.

Improve function

Arthritis and contractures (inability to fully extend or flex a joint) can render your arm useless. Serial upper limb orthoses work progressively toward the goal of full or improved function by gently stretching the soft tissues in and around the joint with each movement and gradually improving your range of motion. 

Whether you’ve suffered a traumatic injury, a repetitive stress injury, or an illness that’s impacted your arm, an upper limb orthosis may be the perfect complement to your treatment plan. 

If you want to find out if an orthotic device can accelerate your healing, reduce your pain, and improve your function, talk to your doctor. Then call us at any of our nine locations throughout Southern California so we can create an upper limb orthosis that fits you perfectly. 

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