What About Aids and Devices?
Another apporach to gait problems is the use of various aids, ranging from canes to wqalkers to braces.
When leg muscles are weak, "foot-drop" may occur, in which the toe strikes the walking, instead of the heel. In such cases braces may help. They traditional metal brace that attaches to your shoes, to the newer and more often used plastic models which involve mass produced or individually molded inserts and are much lighter in weight as well as being unobtrusive. These aids referred to as orthotic devices or ankie-foot orthoses (AFOs).
Whether or not you need AFOs (and these decisions should be made with your and/or a physical therapist) the kind of shoes you wear can make a big difference. Dr. Schapiro recommends leather-soled shoes that tie if you have a problem with foot-drop. The tie provides stability for the foot, and the smooth leather allows shoe to move easily along the floor if the toe drops.
Dr Kraft says that in cases where problems with balance and coordination are the individual may simply need a wider base of support. "Using one or easily create this wider support base," he says.
He is also a strong advocate of wheelchairs - for people who can walk as well as for those who can't. "I dislike the term, 'confined to a wheelchair' - a wheelchair is actually liberating, because it enables you to do so much more. For people with MS who are able to walk, spending part of the day in a wheelchair (or motorized three wheel vehicle) conserves your energy so you can walk better." Abraham of Minneapolis, a legal secretary, found this to be absolutely true.
"I'm on and off my three-wheeler all day long, really without thinking about it. It's of a running joke in the office-people try to hitch rides. But seriously, because of my three wheeler, I can do my own 'leg work.' I am independent."
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