What is orthotics

Appliances or devices used to stabilize and support weakened muscles and joints. The word’s Greek origin means “to straighten.” For many motor system disorders, splints and braces improve mobility. Upper extremity splints sometimes are helpful for people who have intentional tremors (tremors that occur with purposeful action but not at rest), and ankle braces can help keep the foot and leg in proper alignment for walking. Only rarely are these methods useful for the person with Parkinson’s. However, most orthotics can become impediments to movement because they create additional interference with movement or because the person focuses attention on them.

Occasionally the person with Parkinson’s disease experiences bruxism, an involuntary clenching of the jaw and grinding of the teeth that are consequences of symptoms such as rigidity that affect the muscles of the jaw and face. A person with Parkinson’s who is able to swallow normally and has no concerns about choking may want to wear a dental splint that protects the teeth from damage. However, bruxism tends to be a problem in later Parkinson’s, as are swallowing difficulties.

Shoe orthotics also can be helpful for the person with Parkinson’s. Inserts that fit inside the shoes help to hold the foot in a particular position during walking and can sometimes improve stability, balance, and gait in the person with Parkinson’s.