Little Details

A Fact-Checking Community for Writers

Previous Entry Share Next Entry
Orthopaedic leg brace
Gaiman: Boring and full of trivia
runic_binary wrote in little_details
I have a character who, for plot reasons, needs to be wearing some kind of leg brace. It has to either fully or partially restrict knee movement in one leg (I'm thinking her right leg, but it doesn't really matter) and make it difficult for her to walk normally. I'd prefer it if she were able to move quickly under duress, even if this might cause her some injury - it just needs to be possible.

I don't know how much of this matters, but for reference, she's female, in her late teens (17-19), of Asian descent, and living in midwest America. She was adopted from China as an infant. I need her to have been wearing the brace from the time she was a relatively young child.

What I need to know is what might have caused this - injury, disease, birth defect, - if she can be expected to be wearing a leg brace for life, or for how long, what times she might be able to take it off and for how long, what physical effects wearing it might have on her, what it would look like, if she would need to walk with a cane, what medical attention she might require pertaining to it (medications, regular checkups, anything like that), and what kinds of things she wouldn't be able to do while wearing it.

I checked the wiki article for orthopaedic braces, Googled combinations of "orthopaedic leg brace", "injury", "birth defect", "disease", "effects", "limitations", and so on. I didn't turn up much of anything useful, but links are definitely appreciated.

My ex-fiancee had to wear a leg brace due to a bone tumor. I believe she had to take it off to swim. It was not particularly restrictive of knee movement, however, and she could walk reasonably fast. She did not have to use a cane. I am not sure whether she took it off or night at not (we were 14 and 15 and at academic camp in different halls). I believe she had been wearing a brace from the time they discovered the tumor, as it weakened the bone and therefore she had to be protected from possible injury. I know she's had more surgery since then, and I'm unsure whether she still has to wear it.

I had callipers on my legs at an early age because I had knock-knees and these were supposed to fix them.

This was, however, the late 1960s, and by the time my brothers were the same age (about 4-6) in the early 1970s, the treatment was discredited. My personal opinion was that the orthopaedic surgeons who were losing patients because Polio wasn't so prevalent were trying anything to keep in business.

So - how about a kid with knock knees or bow legs, who was told by the old-fashioned doctors that she needed them to straighten her legs, and who has been told over and over that she'll need them for life? And whose legs are now so stiff that they can't bend any more and they don't have the strength to hold her up without them?

I was born in 1980 and still had callipers recommended for knock-knees when I was a child. (I live in Australia if it makes any difference ...) My Mother declined on the advice of our regular GP, who had had them as a child and was of the discrediting generation - he said 90% of kids with this problem grow out of it without any help anyway, and all the callipers would do is make things more difficult for me.

(I still have knock-knees, just as an aside.)

Leg Calipers


2009-05-26 01:58 am (UTC)

I was born in 1960 in Tanzania with extreme knock-knees. I cannot recall when exactly I had them 'installed' but I had calipers and my mother used to lie with me as I cried myself to sleep at night. How did anyone out in the African bush (she was a new teacher from England; my father an agricultural student from South Africa) know any better? It must have been extremely traumatic but I obviously repressed it or whatever the hell you do psychologically and otherwise. Screwed me up, that's for sure... I commiserate and thank you for being courageous to share and encourage me to finally get it off my chest!

Kids with cerebral palsy sometimes wear a leg brace - she will have lots of physical therapy, but may still need a brace to stand rather than be in a wheelchair. She could wear it from occasionally when her muscles are playing up or she's tired, or she could need to wear it whenever she stands up, there's a huge range of disability with cerebral palsy.

Yes, this.

I have CP and wore ankle-foot orthotics (varying from about knee-length down to just a sort of insert to support my ankles inside my shoes that you could hardly see) more or less continously from when I was about two and a half to when I was fifteen and refused to put the damn thing on any more. I needed to use one again on my right leg when I was eighteen, but that was just a stop-gap measure until I could have more surgery on my impinged ankle.

A knee length brace like the ones I usually wore doesn't seriously restrict the range of movement, but there is a padded strap that crosses just under your knee which can get in the way, particularly if you're making a kicking motion. It can also make a difference if she hasn't had a new brace fitted for a while and the one she's wearing is no longer a perfect fit. If I'm remembering rightly, the brace needs to be fitted again at least once a year, just to deal with any changes - maybe she's not completely finished growing yet, or her legs have bulked up a bit more because she's been doing more exercise, or shes lost weight so the strap that goes around her ankle is too loose and needs to be redone...

Yeah. There are a lot of things to consider with AFOs.

Any brace will be specifically made for her - there's a long process where they put your leg and foot in a sort of undersock, cover the sock in a layer of plaster and then make the plastic brace from the plaster cast - but the brace itself is almost never a perfect fit straight away. They have to sand the front down so it's not hanging an inch ahead of your toes. If she's anything like me, they might need to put a little wodge of padding on the inside of the ankle (right where that little ball is) or the plastic right behind the knee so it doesn't rub and give her blisters or pressure sores. They need to measure out the velcro strip for each strap, so it can fasten without losing any support or cutting off circulation.

I wore my braces all day at school, but took them off as soon as I got home. I very rarely wore them on weekends. It really depends on what you want her to do. She might prefer not to wear it if she doesn't absolutely have to - knee length braces are almost impossible to disguise, and trust me when I say people will stare - but if she's got any sense at all she'll think about whether or not she's on her feet tomorrow long before tomorrow actually arrives.

This was what I was going to suggest as well. I have a very dear friend in her early 20s who has leg braces for this reason. They go right about to her knees. She walks slowly and kind of knock-kneed, but she's very energetic. I mean, we went hiking up in Colorado together.

She wore them almost continuously, although she took them off before bed and would rub them down and kind of 'go over' her legs. Even if it was just us, she usually left them on until she was getting tired. (Also, and this may be a function of wearing a large brace and being energetic, but the knee-socks she wore underneath were ungodly stinky in the evenings.)

In addition to the braces themselves, she had these springy-heeled sneakers that helped her walk without any other assistance.

Muscular distrophy can cause a person to have to wear a brace. Also, if a person is too knock kneed or pigeon toed, they have to wear a brace to correct it.

There are comparatively few variants of MD that would apply to a young woman.

I'm fairly certain most of them are far more common (or only appear) in males.

MD is an X recessive trait. That's why men have it more than women, because most women end up only being carriers unless they have it on both Xes instead of one. It's possible for them to get it, just rare.

But I wouldn't really recommend MD because you know there's that whole muscle wasting factor and a lot of things that come with it.

I have a friend who had blood clots that cut off the flow of blood to her left leg. As a result, it is partially paralyzed. In some conditions, she has to manually bend her knee. I don't know the specifics, but she does wear a brace, and in addition, uses a cane. Regardless, as long as she is not on stairs and the ground is relatively smooth, she can walk quite fast, even on an incline.

Oh, I forgot to mention that my friend with the partially paralyzed leg wears a brace that fits into her shoe and comes up past her knee. She wear it pretty much all of the time except to sleep and bathe. She does have a smaller brace, but I have never seen her wear it. She says that while it's more comfortable, it offers less support. As a result of hr braces, she must wear a specific shoe. It isn't orthopedic, but it's a particular brand and model athletic shoe that whill accept the bottom portion of the brace.



2009-05-29 01:36 pm (UTC)

I had a stroke 12 years ago & the right side was paralyzed. I have movement again, but I also wear a brace from the knee down. Where does your friend get her shoes? I have a very hard time trying to get shoes that fit with the brace.

She gets them at WalMart.

I know a man who had a bad fracture (shattered) of femur with not state of the art treatment at the time. Wears brace all the time- unless surgery is done- will need it for the rest of his life. Limps as knee held rigid. He wears a sock on his leg under the brace. YOu might google images re braces. Takes it off to sleep. Look up orthotic devices for checkups - replacements.

Depends when this is set.

The World Health Organisation was immunising children in third-world countries against polio by the mid-1980s. China may or may not have been part of any immunisation program at the time - I honestly don't know - but the US would have had something in place well before that.

Short of sending her to Afghanistan or India, the only way for her to develop polio would be for her to be given the Sabin vaccine (which uses a live sample of the virus) and have the virus revert back to a paralysis-inducing form. This is very rare - I think the numbers are something like 1 in every 750,000 - and most industrialised countries have either switched back to the slightly earlier Salk vaccine (which has a dead form of the virus and can't cause paralysis no matter what goes wrong) or give patients both vaccines just to be sure.

You won't believe this, but I was coming on here to post almost exactly the same question. Seriously. Practically identical.
Thank you!


Or at least that's what the dr says I have. Though I rarely have swelling. Just pain, and can't do steps easily. I've put off getting a brace for years now but come Monday I'm going to start looking for a comfortable one. I've had knee pain all my life, born 1981, but these past 3 years have been a growing torture.

I survived polio as a child and have used a full leg brace on my right leg all my life. It starts from my thigh to my feet. It keeps my knee fixed so to sit I always have to pull an attached cord to flex the knee joint. I walk relatively fast sometimes have to restrain myself because I tire easily and could injure myself. I have a pronounced limp. I dont use a cane or crutches cos I prefer to have my hands free. When I was younger, I could engage in loads of activities and hardly felt tired but now in my mid-thirties, I am constantly exhausted. I have lots of scars and bruises from the leather straps and sometimes from the metal part of my braces. Occassionally, I have to go in to see my othorpaedic consultant if discomfort is getting unbearable and I might take some pain killers sometimes.

At home, I dont wear my braces at all. I wander around barefooted or with stockings cos I cant wear "normal" shoes. Its easier to walk around my home without the braces because I can control the amount of walking or standing that I do at home and distance within the home is minimal. So when I get back from work, I take my braces off and dont put it on again till I am on my way out again.

I expect I'll use my brace for the rest of my life except I retire to some remote island

Hope this is helpful