Stance Control Orthotics Explained
Compared to walking with a locked leg brace, a stance-control orthosis is a brace that helps create a more natural stride. “Stance control” means that instead of stability coming from a locked knee joint, the brace is able to lock and unlock at just the right time while walking.
More natural motion
First phases of E-Mag gait cycle.
Last phases of E-Mag gait cycle.
You may have seen or experienced a “hip hike” or other unnatural movements that come from walking with a locked knee brace. Stance Control braces help avoid the physical strain and damage these abnormal movements can cause over time. They closely mimic natural gait ie. walking and help the wearer cover the variable terrain they come across in everyday life, from carpet to grass, to uneven tiled surfaces.
Negatives of locked knee brace
The type of brace called a “Conventional KAFO” locks when the knee is fully extended. Imagine trying to move or walk without bending your knee. Some of these braces have a manual lock and unlock mechanism, meaning that, with every step, the wearer has to push a button or move a lever to allow for movement.
A locked knee forces the user to find ways of walking in spite of their inability to flex the knee. This leads to compensatory movements that are often described as a “vault” or “hip hike” to allow the braced leg in a brace to move forward a step. This takes more energy and ultimately leads to overuse and other complications. It may even damage the leg. Many people would rather avoid braces entirely than use a locked knee brace, which also limits their independence and stability.
Benefits of stance control braces
Stance Control braces allow the wearer to walk more naturally. In the short-term, that means more energy to spend moving forward and less wear and tear on the body. People who use stance control braces often comment that they – and those around them – are much less aware of the device, enabling them to focus on their daily lives.
It does take time and dedication to learn to walk with these devices, and to unlearn the compensating movements used to walk with a locked knee brace. That investment is well worth it, though, to be able to more easily navigate life more easily.