(650) 375-2231

Call our main office


8:30 AM-5:30 PM

There’s a wide range of health conditions that require the use of orthoses. No matter if we’re talking about children or adults, it’s important to stress that some of these orthotic devices have a big impact on people’s lives. ​

Therefore, we are going to explore all the important details about orthoses, what they are, and what types of these devices are commonly used.

What are Orthoses?

Orthoses are braces designed to assist with a wide range of injuries and conditions. Their function differs in two ways. 

First, it will depend on the part of the body where orthoses are worn. For example, while AFO (ankle-foot orthosis) serves to alleviate pressure and pain, CTO (cervical thoracic orthosis) will keep the upper body stabilized to prevent any injury from happening, ensuring secure recovery.

The second way in which orthoses function differs depends on the type of condition or injury. A good example includes spine orthotics. Even though they limit a person’s mobility, they do help with conditions such as scoliosis.

These devices are great tools that use the external force to help and improve the body’s functionality and recovery. Let’s take a closer look at what types of orthoses are commonly used.

1. Upper Body Orthoses

As you might assume, the upper body orthoses are designed to help both children and adults with different body parts above their hips. These include the head, neck, shoulders, spine, elbows, hands, wrists, and even fingers.

While some are more sturdy and serve to stabilize and protect you, other orthoses come with a bit of flexibility. Whatever the case, they can be custom-made to perfectly fit the patient’s body.


Head orthoses are also known as cranial orthoses. These orthotic tools are usually used for effective treatment of some conditions in newborn children. These include brachycephaly, scaphocephaly, and plagiocephaly.

In case a child needs additional head protection, especially after another injury, cranial orthoses are recommended during the recovery period. It will keep the patient secure and ensure that they heal safely.


Neck orthotics primarily serve to fixate head movement in case of a cervical fracture, or any kind of other instability. It is also known as cervical orthoses. We have to mention that it might also be used in cases of muscle weakness and torticollis.


Shoulders are very sensitive parts of our bodies. That is why a shoulder orthosis is an important orthotic tool. They are designed to limit shoulder movement to help the muscles, soft tissues, and nerves heal faster.

Shoulder orthoses (SO) are often used in recovery after an injury such as dislocation or surgical procedure.


Spine orthoses are used with a wide range of spine conditions. These braces are used in various scenarios, some of which are:

​For example, in the case of scoliosis, there is a wide range of available spine orthotics to opt for. The same applies to other conditions, in which a Jewett or Harris brace can be effective. Whatever the case, this type of orthotic device is one of the best ways to alleviate pain and reduce pressure on your spine.


When it comes to elbows, an orthosis brace is a very effective tool in assisting elbow injury healing. Whether we are talking about a physical injury, ligament injuries, or post-surgical recovery, these orthoses remain one of the best ways in limiting your elbow flexion.

Additionally, there are also elbow wrist hand finger orthosis (EWHFO) that serve to assist with arm movement in more serious conditions such as multiple sclerosis, brain injury, spinal injury, stroke, or cerebral palsy. As the name suggests, besides assisting with elbow movement, this device goes over the whole forearm, hand, and fingers.


Wrist hand orthosis (WHO) are used for immobilization or limitation of motion of the wrist. Even though the wrist is encompassed with the WHO, fingers can be moved and used. There is a wide range of conditions for which WHO is used. However, most commonly, it is worn during the recovery of a wrist injury.


Even though we are talking about hand orthotics, we are referring to immobilization of the thumb. After any serious thumbs injury, especially if surgery was required, thumb spicas are used.


Finger orthotics are used for several conditions that can limit finger function. They are worn to improve finger function and help with their healing.

2. Lower Body Orthoses

Contrary to the upper body orthoses, these are designed to help people with joints from the hips down. The most commonly used orthotic braces are made for the hip, knees, ankles, and feet. 

Much like the braces above, these are also made for both children and adults. Furthermore, they too can be custom made.


Hip orthoses are used for both children and adults, but with different goals. In children, these devices help to ensure that the hip joint grows properly. Whereas with the elderly, it is often used as a post-operative hip replacement recovery. It serves to alleviate pain.


When it comes to knees, there are several different types of braces available. Their designs vary depending on their purpose.

The most commonly used knee orthosis is worn after surgery or an injury. The device helps stabilize the knee and reduce pain.

KAFO, on the other hand, is designed for more serious conditions such as severe knee osteoarthritis, multiple sclerosis, trauma, peripheral nerve injury, and spinal cord injury. There are three types of knee ankle-foot orthosis. They are Conventional, Stance Control, and Thermoplastic knee ankle-foot orthosis. Picking the appropriate KAFO will depend on the patients’ needs and their condition.


Ankle foot orthoses (AFO) are used for a broad range of conditions and injuries. They support a patient’s ankle and foot. Different designs are specifically made for a particular condition. Some of these include cerebral palsy, nerve damage, multiple sclerosis, idiopathic toe walking, spinal cord injury, trauma, muscular dystrophy, and many more.

By design, the ankle-foot orthosis can be:

  • Single Axis Ankle-Foot Orthosis
  • Rigid Ankle-Foot Orthosis
  • Flexible Ankle-Foot Orthosis
  • Energy Storage and Return Ankle-Foot Orthoses
  • Charcot Restraint Orthotic Walker


Insoles are one of the most commonly used foot orthoses. Their purpose is to alleviate pain by differently distributing foot pressure. Depending on the condition they are used for, they can even help with pain in the legs, hips, or even back.

Foot orthoses include supra malleolar orthoses and foot abduction orthosis. While the former is used to treat flat-foot, overpronation, and hypotonia, the latter is specifically used for treating clubfoot condition.

Concluding Thoughts

We hope that you’ve liked our guide to the types of orthotics commonly used. Don’t forget that before using any of these, it is necessary to first go through an examination by an orthotics expert. Therefore, feel free to book an appointment at one of our locations.