As mentioned in recent posts, my disability has progressed to where I often have a noticeable limp. After a fair amount of research online, I have settled on two potential aids to help with my gait; an AFO and FES (functional electrical stimulation).
AFO stands for Ankle Foot Orthosis. Most AFOs are L shaped braces that have a plate underneath the foot attached to some type of post secured to the lower leg. This provides some support for the ankle. There is also a KAFO that extends to the knee as well.
Many people with MS develop a condition known as foot drop. With foot drop, weakness in the lower leg makes it difficult to lift the toe while walking. This can cause a plopping down of the sole once any weight gets put on the heal. Worse yet, it can cause tripping over one’s toes making normal walking difficult. The AFO keeps the ankle more rigid which in turn helps lift the toes while stepping.
AFOs can range from a few hundred dollars or less, all the way up to ten’s of thousands. The majority of top AFOs seem to run between $200 to $700. If it would help me walk more normal, it would be well worth it. To boot, insurance will often cover the cost of an AFO.
A quick search on Amazon found that I could buy one for only $25, no prescription needed. As an added plus, I was able to find a black one that would enable me to wear it conspicuously at work while wearing a dark suit. I ordered one just to try it out.
It actually helps.
My leg is more solid and stable with the AFO. Interestingly, it helps my knee the most. I have some weakness in my left knee. Standing up, it now hyperextends a little. After standing for a while, it starts to hurt. Because of the angle of the “L” of the AFO, my knee does not hyperextend while wearing it. This helps with my gait and really helps with my endurance while standing.
I would like to invest in a better quality AFO; one that is custom made to fit me and optimally provide the right support in the right places. My physical therapist has recommended that I see a local orthotist.
All of this having been said, there is one thing that bothers me. If I am wearing the AFO most of the time, will I begin to rely on it, causing further atrophy and weakening? I’ve been told no by someone. Granted, he was looking to sell me a $7k one. I’m skeptical.
The other solution under consideration should take care of this concern. That will be the subject of my next post.