Dr.Sachin Tapasvi: Belts & Buckles of the Ortho Kind

Ankle brace

Very frequently, your eye would catch an attention of someone walking on the street with a bright coloured or dull coloured splint or support around their wrist, elbow or knee. One tends to look at it with a feeling “Thank God, I am not in that!”

Splints and braces and belts are one of the most important tools of the orthopaedic surgeon to relieve the pain and suffering of a patient. So essentially why do we need them and how are they used?

The principle of healing of any injured part is to rest it till such time that nature and your treatment is able to cure it. Previously, when splints and braces were not available, orthopaedic surgeons resorted to the use of plasters. These plasters were very cumbersome since they were not removable and very frequently the skin underneath the plaster would get macerated, develop sores and at times also develop infections. These plasters were non-breathable and hence this rigid splinting of the yesteryears was not very patient-friendly. Subsequently this led to the development of stronger and lighter materials, which would grip the body parts more effectively and also allow good stability and support. Newer materials such as neoprene and its refinements and the use of lightweight thermoplastics as well as strong carbon fiber braces have helped the cause of the same. These newer materials have a triple-sided benefit – they are strong, they are extremely lightweight and they are functional.

The emphasis is now on functional movement and functional recovery. So typically a knee joint that is unstable because of ligamentous disruption can be very well treated in the appropriate case with the use of a functional knee brace, which has hinges and provides extra support in the area that is deficient. What that means is that you no longer need to have you knee immobile in a plaster, you can have a knee that bends and yet does not buckle. By virtue of this, one can exert the normal physiological load on the joint, thereby hastening and aiding rapid recovery. Lack of use of a part lead to what is called as ‘disuse’ decease in which the muscles start becoming weaker, the joints start becoming stiff and the bone start becoming soft. The use of functional braces has eliminated the same and has allowed us to return back to activity in a completely normal fashion.

Belts and braces are used for a variety of disorders right from the neck and the skull-neck junction to the tip of your toes. They are useful for fractures, dislocations, ligament ruptures, muscle injuries, tendon injuries as well as soft tissue injury. Braces and splints are of tremendous use in correcting contractures and also in prevention of the same.

A branch out of the bracing science has been the foot insoles as well as the amputation prosthesis. Orthotics is now a big science and the advances in this science are beyond imagination. Newer braces are now designed to react to movements, which means that if there is a particular movement, which is causing a harmful force on a body part; the brace or the splint reacts in an opposing direction to prevent this harmful effect.

So friends, any time you see someone with a brace or a splint put on, I think he is a satisfied person who has been benefited with the advances made in the science of orthotics.

Dr Sachin Tapasvi

Dr Sachin Tapasvi

Dr Sachin Tapasvi is one of India’s leading joint replacement surgeons. He practises in Pune and has been awarded several fellowships with experience garnered internationally as well as in India. Dr Tapasvi writes every Wednesday on Pune365.
Dr Sachin Tapasvi