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The Hidden Danger of Using an AFO Brace for Foot Drop

afo brace for foot drop

As you’re searching for foot drop treatments, your physical therapist will likely recommend an ankle foot orthosis (AFO).

There’s an upside and a downside to using an AFO brace – and, unfortunately, no one usually tells you both sides.

The cause of this indiscretion could be that an AFO brace is an easy prescription: a therapist can simply send you home with a brace and it should improve your safety for years to come.

But the hidden danger is that an AFO actually creates an entirely new problem, which you’ll learn soon.

In this article, you’ll learn when it’s appropriate to use an AFO brace for foot drop safely, so that you can achieve the best results.

Here’s the scoop if you want the fullest possible recovery from foot drop:

The Upside: AFO Braces for Foot Drop Improve Your Safety!

therapist giving afo brace for foot drop

Usually, an AFO is absolutely essential if you have foot drop. They help keep your foot in place so that you can move safely and prevent falls after stroke.

Although there are consequences to using an AFO brace for foot drop, you should absolutely use them if your therapist recommends it!

Seriously. Do not stop wearing your AFO cold turkey. We will discuss a safe way to wean yourself off later.

But first, let’s discuss why you may want to consider weaning yourself off that AFO brace…

The Danger: AFO Braces Actually Prevent You from Getting Better Long-Term

best afo brace for foot drop

AFO braces are like crutches. They’re useful while you’re healing, but you’ll need to push yourself past the crutch at some point if you want to achieve a full recovery.

Stroke patients who use AFOs for too long can end up with learned nonuse and completely lose the use of their foot.

Because the therapists are spot on when they say “use it or lose it!”

Seriously – if you don’t use your foot, you’ll lose your foot mobility.

The goal of stroke recovery isn’t to merely find compensation techniques for everything. The goal is to get back to life as usual – and we’re betting that you didn’t use an AFO brace before stroke.

Luckily, if you challenge yourself to regain use of your foot, then you can outgrow the need for an inconvenient AFO altogether!

How to Overcome Dependency on Foot Drop Braces

how long will you need an afo brace for foot drop

In order to regain the use of your foot, you need to reconnect your mind to your muscles through neuroplasticity.

Neuroplasticity is the mechanism that your brain uses to rewire itself and form new neural connections; and you can activate it through repetitive practice.

By repeating foot drop exercises over and over, neuroplasticity will start to engage and your brain will get better and better at controlling your foot.

Over time, your foot mobility will gradually improve from all your hard work.

So, Should You Use an AFO Brace for Foot Drop?

afo foot brace for stroke recovery

So, what should you do? Should you keep the AFO or kick it to the curb?

Our advice is to continue to use your AFO brace because it’s important for your safety and wellbeing.

Just don’t stop there!

We encourage you to start practicing foot drop exercises on a regular basis (preferably with a full body rehabilitation exercise regimen).

This will prevent your brain from completely forgetting how to use your foot, and it will help you slowly start to outgrow the need for an AFO.

Repetitive practice is how you will regain independence and recover from foot drop.

As you put in the hard work and move those muscles, you might be able to graduate to smaller and smaller AFO braces for foot drop.

Until one day, you don’t need an AFO at all.

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See how Susan is recovering from post-stroke paralysis

“I had a stroke five years ago causing paralysis on my left side which remains today.

I recently began using FitMi.

At first it was difficult for me to be successful with a few of the exercises but the more I use it, the better my scores become.

I have recently had some movement in my left arm that I did not have before.

I don’t know if I can directly relate this to the use of the FitMi but I am not having occupational therapy so I conclude that it must be benefiting me.

The therapy modality motivates me to use it daily and challenges me to compete against my earlier scores.

I heartily recommend it!-Susan, stroke survivor

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