If you've been literally dragging yourself around, as the result of a medical condition known as foot drop, then you know how important walking is - to your safety as well as your independence and lifestyle. You may have tried traditional orthoses (braces) to stabilize your foot and leg where nerve-to-muscle function has been damaged. But the braces are awkward, difficult to get on and off, unattractive and impossible to hide - and they rely only on rigidity to provide mobility.
Drop foot, as it is also known, is usually caused by a stroke, cerebral palsy or spinal cord injury, or it can be one of the early symptoms multiple sclerosis presents.
Imagine, then, if your leg and foot muscles and nerves could communicate again! A team of University of Alberta researchers have invented a system, known as WalkAide, that does just that. They incorporated technology called functional electrical stimulation (FES) that complements the support offered by braces.
Gentle electrical stimulation will help you cope better with your foot drop. Some of the ways that it does that are:
- Safety first: Better foot control means less chance of falling down.
- No need to ask for help: One-handed application means you can attach the device by yourself.
- To each his own: A Certified Orthotist tailors the device to your unique walking pattern.
- No more foot dropping from exhaustion: Less exertion is required to lift your foot.
- Shoe shopping - bring it on: You can wear sandals and other revealing footwear again.
- Power walking: go faster and for longer distances.
- Don't stand out in a crowd: A more natural gait means you'll blend in with other walkers.
- No sweat: The device has minimal contact with skin, so it's comfortable and doesn't cause perspiration.
- No surgery: No recovery time is required.
- No training necessary: Your walking is improved as soon as the device is applied.
Other benefits of the device using functional electrical stimulation may include:
- Increased circulation Reduced atrophy
- Larger range of motion for joints
- Improved voluntary control.
Linda Laakso has been working as a Certified Orthotist since completing her Canadian Board of Certification exams in 1995 and graduating with a university degree in Human Kinetics and Biomedical Sciences. She is a founding partner of Custom Orthotics Design Group Ltd. and has been fully trained in the assessment and provision of the WalkAide device for her clients.