AFOs Have Positive Impact on Older Adults With Balance Issues

A new study published in Canadian Prosthetics & Orthotics Journal demon- strates the usefulness of ankle-foot orthoses (AFOs) on older adults with balance impairment. Researchers from the Department of Rehabilitation Therapy at Queen’s University in Kingston, Canada, conducted a scoping review of the literature related to adults over age 65 with dropfoot or sensory deficits in the lower-extremity who were treated with AFOs.

The researchers, led by Jenna Laidler, undertook the study with the recogni- tion that falls are a serious cause of injury and death in the senior population. While many older individuals are fit with AFOs to aid in balance during walking

and standing, there have been concerns about AFOs possibly restricting natural movements or interrupting sensory feedback from the lower leg and foot.

The research team identified 11 articles that met their inclusion criteria, and found that AFOs have a generally positive impact in four ways: They improve lateral stability, improve balance under static conditions, pro- vide a reduction in postural sway, and increase walking speed in community- dwelling older adults. “These findings suggest that AFOs have a largely positive impact on the balance of older adults,” reported Laidler, “and can be considered to help improve balance
in certain patient populations.”

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