What's an orthotic anyways?

Brace, splint, orthosis, orthopedic device, orthopedic appliance, inserts, and supports are all terms people use interchangeably to describe orthotics. Can you guess which one is correct? Actually, the correct term is orthosis. An orthosis refers to an actual device, whereas, orthotics refers to the science of fabricating or fitting orthoses. So now that we’ve got that straight I am going to throw in another curve. In order to keep this blog simple and family friendly I will only be using the word orthotic. In speaking with families for 15 years, I have never had a family ask me for an orthosis.


So orthotic it is. It's a simple three syllable word. I realize that brace and splint are just one syllable, and inserts and supports are only 2 syllables, making all of those options easier to remember and annunciate. I even use them myself when speaking with my clients, but for this blog it will only be orthotic. I may put a disclaimer on every blog post that goes something like “Please be advised: orthotic = brace, splint, orthosis, orthopedic device, orthopedic appliance, insert, support.” Just so we’re all on the same page, because even I get confused.


What do orthotics do? According to the government of Ontario ministry of health, an orthotic is “any device, which may function to support or immobilize a body part, to correct or prevent deformity, and/or to assist or restore function.” Well that’s great, but what does that mean? Let’s break this down into a few pieces. First, orthotics are made for all parts of the body. Head and shoulders, knees and toes. Second, if you’re having trouble moving a body part, orthotics can help you move. If you need to stop moving a body part, orthotics can stop it from moving. Third, if you need to support a body part because it’s moving the wrong way, an orthotic can do that too. Did I mention that orthotics are made for the whole body? I believe I did, and this is important because in this blog if I am referring to a specific type of orthotic I will use the body part or joint over which the orthotic is used. So an ankle foot orthotic supports the ankle and foot, and a wrist hand orthotic supports the wrist and hand, etc. Otherwise, when I use the term orthotic it will be used generally, to refer to all types of orthotics. I hope this has helped give some clarity to a sometimes confusing issue. Please feel free to leave a comment or contact me if you have any questions or would like any other information about this blog. Thanks!