For many years now my neurologist has wanted me to wear a brace on my legs. I finally gave in to this and was fitted for the brace. Why did I need a brace? Why would anyone with MS need a brace? Well there are several reasons a person might benefit from a brace let’s start with weakness of the muscles. Muscle weakness can cause a problem called foot drop where the top portion of your foot drags on the floor. If you don’t have this let me explain what happens as your lifting your feet to take a normal step, your toe is dragging so when the foot goes to step down the toe hits first something like stubbing your toe. This can cause falls or trips very easily not to mention scrapes all along the top of your toes. Another muscle weakness issue that occurs when walking is we over compensate with the stronger leg for the weaker leg. The medical terms for this is vaulting, hip hike, trunk lean or circumduction (swinging legs from hip to side) . All these weakness lead to abnormal walking and can cause other muscle pain, falls or trips, poor muscle adaption and more weakness in muscles you aren’t using or aren’t using correctly. Then of course all of the ms weakness in the legs get worse when the muscles fatigue. My favorite ms issue that happens all the time. When overcompensating for your weaker leg, I guarantee you will fatigue both your stronger leg and your weaker leg.
So now neurologist wants you to get a brace. What’s so bad about that? Well first you need a good sneaker for the brace to fit in and they aren’t cheap. Then depending on your insurance the brace it’s self is not cheap. That’s the monetary part of it now let’s discuss the other issues. You can’t drive in the brace unless you use hand controls and don’t need your feet. That means you have to put it on and take it off each time your driving. Remember your in a sneaker not a slip on shoe and the brace goes right up below your knee. If you have no issues with your hands to tie a shoelace great if your hands have issues…well. Luckily a friend told me about a product called lace locks which turn any shoes into slip on shoes but it is still a hassle putting the brace and shoe on and off. The brace is bulky because it doesn’t bend and it can get hot. Heat most people can’t deal with so now wearing the brace is rubbing on your skin maybe causing a little irritation and is hot. Lately I heard from all my MS friends wearing the brace on a regular basis will cause atrophy in muscles it stops you from using like the calf and ankle muscles. Does that mean without the brace the foot drop is worse? How is that a good thing?
For me personally I got the brace wore it once and hated it although I have physical therapy appointments in November to work with them. I am safer with my walker and most of my falls and trips are when I walk without it. I’d rather just continue to use the walker at this point unless the braces help me walk unaided and I don’t look like Frankenstein otherwise forget it. Pros and cons on this assistive device. I think they will stay in the closet more then see the light of day.