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A walking brace is a medical device which provides support to someone's foot, ankle, or leg while also allowing that individual to walk. There are a number of different styles of walking brace available for people who require supportive devices of this nature. It is important to have a walking brace fitted by a medical professional because a brace which does not fit properly can be uncomfortable and may cause injuries.
One common reason to use a walking brace is to help someone recover from a fracture. The fracture may be in a cast and a brace can be provided for support, and when the cast is removed, bracing can help the patient while he or she regains strength. Walking boots are a common example of a brace used to support people after fractures or surgery. The purpose of the brace is to reduce strain so that a fracture has a chance to heal properly.
Braces may also be used by people with muscle weakness or spasticity so that they can walk more steadily. For example, someone with cerebral palsy might wear a walking brace and use other assistive devices such as a cane. The brace allows the person to walk comfortably and reduces the risk of a fall. Bracing can also be used for people with congenital conditions which weaken the bone, cause the leg to turn out, or lead to other problems which may impede walking.
An orthopedic physician usually fits a walking brace. First, the patient is evaluated to determine whether or not a brace is needed and then measurements are taken so that the brace can be adjusted. Sometimes a brace needs to be fabricated and in other cases the physician may have a brace available which can be adjusted to fit. Working with the patient, the doctor fits the brace, tightens it and adds padding as necessary, and has the patient walk with the brace on so that the effectiveness of the brace can be assessed.
The duration of walking brace wear can vary. Sometimes it is a temporary measure to support a patient through the healing process, in which case the patient will be periodically evaluated and eventually the brace can be worn for lesser periods of time before being taken off altogether. In other instances, braces may need to be worn at all time to provide support for a patient with a chronic or congenital medical issue.