ToeOFF Walk Aide is for New Balance

Imagine, if you will, that a child or adult is stricken by an event that leaves muscles inactive. There is loss of movement and, with it, losses of freedom. New technologies and research are helping mobility challenged to meet those extra challenges that bring more than the sense of normal movement. We are talking 21st-century ways to help you move much better than you’ve dreamed.

Muscular Dystrophies, ALS and Multiple Sclerosis are leading diseases that immobilize patients. There are also conditions due to compressed or damaged nerves as results of development, accidents, and war. When nerves and muscles can’t evoke action potentials to stimulate movement, you are unable to move. There are many levels of research to infer causes and effects. Biochemistry has thus far been leading symptom control. Over the past 20 years, giant strides have developed technological devices that can help promote movement, albeit better movement than none. There are perhaps only a few million people in the USA where chronic immobilization is a symptom. New tech research is helping those walk forward.

Immobilization may often occur in the mind but many suffer immobility from muscle weakness to severe paralysis. Those with spinal cord injuries may become permanently paraplegic with the inability to move their legs at all but new studies with electrical impulses can help carve ways to mobilize the immobile of body. For those with weak leg muscles, pushing walkers or using wheelchairs and scooters are the common ways of finding mobility. Precious few seek out trying to walk with braces. Braces are changing. They are no longer clunky and heavy. ToeOFF is a leading orthosis that you fit in your shoe. For those who have a form of ankle weakness, ToeOFF offers dynamic mechanical devices that help people walk more naturally. In recent years, alternate technologies, such as Functional Electric Stimulation of nerves have been emerging (FES). Is there attractive hope toward mobilizing the immobile?

Until FES experiments began in the late 1990’s, if you couldn’t walk you used a cane or crutch for support. In more severe cases, you might have used a wheelchair or would have been bedridden and constantly dependent on others.

In the mid twentieth century during the polio epidemics, leather and steel leg-braces were quite a common sight. A Persian, in the 15th century, first described the coating of plaster for fractures and other bony injuries of the limb. By the 17th century, there were braces for those who could not walk but they were heavy and cumbersome. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was stricken with polio and used braces to stand when making speeches. They were those heavy leather and steel contraptions that were difficult to put-on and take-off. His braces were extremely difficult to use. In recent years, uses of aluminum and carbon fibers make braces lighter. Adjustable rubber and/or Velcro straps make them easier to adjust. AA Swedish designed brace, sold in USA as ToeOFF, is a prescription brace that helps certain people walk better and more comfortably.

Allard ToeOFF is known as a dynamic Ankle Foot Orthosis, often referred as an AFO that aid those people that have muscular weakness from the muscle groups that disable ankles to move up and down. The result is foot drag. ToeOFF using a lightweight, mechanical carbon-fiber device that helps restore a more normal walking gait. It’s a great device and helps many people with muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, neuropathies, and myopathies that are aware of ToeOFF and the availability of the ToeOFF line and the use of other dynamic AFO devices.

ToeOFF is an appliance that allows people to easily put on and fit into different types of shoes. It is a lightweight, supportive brace specifically designed to correctly position feet for walking without foot drop. It covers the symptoms attributed to weaknesses in dorsiflexion of the ankle. Dorsiflexion problems may come from acute or chronic conditions. ToeOFF is a non-electric device that acts as a dynamic brace that normalizes the way you walk when a group of muscles don’t allow that seemingly simple action. Foot Drop is a relatively common problem among people of all ages but is also a symptom of nerve and muscle diseases. It can disable walking. ToeOFF is a prescription brace that helps facilitate “normal” walking (within degrees and limits) in those people with dorsiflexion from weak muscles.

ToeOFF has become a great aid for people with diseases where dorsiflexion is a symptom. Where other muscles are not as weak, ToeOFF is a fantasy device that helps people with muscle diseases walk. For overcoming the challenges of biped walking, ToeOFF really offers an alternative to some from being confined to a wheelchair or scooter.

Science fiction sometimes becomes reality and neurokinetic and neuromuscular researchers have more avenues and tools with which to explore how to stimulate movement and mobility for many muscle group problems. Of course, many studies are too small to deliver impact. Through various independent resources, including injured veterans from recent and ongoing Asian wars, there has been a drive to test electrical impulses as means of preventing pain and restoring movement. It seems like fantasy but small steps are being realized every day. For some, small steps bring large results.

Stimulating muscle movement to enable the motion-challenged to find motion is now being experimented with as a means to help people walk. The principle isn’t a new one. About 300 years ago, Luigi Galvani at the University of Bologna in Italy. He realized that if he sent an electric impulse at the lower spine of a frog, the frog’s legs would twitch. Similar experiments helped Galvani create neurophysiology as a study of how nerves can activate muscles in the body.

Galvani’s studies transitioned to studies of stress. In law enforcement, a Galvanic Skin Response in the hand helps determine whether a person may be telling the truth or not. The skin conductance response, also known as the electrodermal response (and in older terminology as “galvanic skin response”), is the phenomenon that the skin momentarily becomes a better conductor of electricity when either external or internal stimuli occur that are physiologically arousing. It occurs in the fight or flight response at the root of placing the body on stress alert.

A Superman on screen, actor Christopher Reeve suffered virtually total paralysis after a spinal injury. The Christopher Reeve Foundation offered grants (in the last decade) to study Functional Electrical Stimulation of nerve tissue to help induce movement. Functional Electrical Stimulation applies small electrical pulses to paralyzed muscles to restore or improve their function. FES is commonly used for exercise, but also to assist with breathing, grasping, transferring, standing and walking. FES can help some to improve bladder and bowel function. There’s evidence that FES helps reduce the frequency of pressure sores.

For research, FES is extremely valid when FES is used with a functional task such as walking, cycling, or grasping objects for a number of rehabilitative purposes and across differing diagnoses. FES has demonstrated the capacity for strengthening muscles enhancing circulation and blood flow, reducing pain, and retarding muscular atrophy.

In 2001, Case Western Reserve University, Department of Veterans Affairs, developed an intramuscular implanted system that activates the hip, knee, and trunk muscles to facilitate ambulation. At the time, the problems of electrode integrity in addition to adjusting the wavelength and amplitude signal measurements demonstrated promise.

Over the years, Federal Drug Administration worked at approving several devices that could provide enhanced results. Bioness L300 Plus adds a thigh component that facilitates knee extension and adds stability during walking as well. Other similar peroneal nerve (associated with the muscles that cause foot drop) stimulators commercially available are the WalkAide System and the Odstock devices. These systems have demonstrated long-term improvement in walking skills for persons with stroke as well as persons with multiple sclerosis and, possibly, other (thus far) incurable muscular diseases.

Alas, the rub is that virtually all these disabling diseases and conditions have no cure. Devices like ToeOFF and FES help the immobilized meet the challenges of moving. When you’re immobile or paralyzed, the facility of movement is like a light from the sky, even if only a short one.

The AFO and FES devices available for public use have been approved by medical agencies and federal groups like the FDA. This doesn’t mean that there are no side effects and contraindications as patients use them. While ToeOFF and WalkAide (and similar devices) are approved for certain conditions, each individual may be affected uniquely. Improvements may be individual specific and may not likely be generalized to work equally for a general population.

FES seems to be laying the groundwork toward the future of orthosis and. thankfully, there are products that offer advanced alternatives to the AFO. As relatively new, and somewhat unknown through the medical profession, FES is still somewhat expensive and most insurances do not cover use of a device like WalkAide. In addition, a pair of AFO (generally covered by insurance) may cost in the $1,000 to $2,000+ range. The WalkAide System may cost around $5,000 for a single and, a bit more, for a pair. Often these conditions may affect both left and right legs. Poverty and lack of adequate health insurance for those disabled by chronic nerve and muscle diseases. The merits of these prosthetics, however, could be life-changing to those afflicted by conditions.

In cases like multiple sclerosis and muscular dystrophy, understanding the etiology (causes) of the disease dynamics and causes is extremely important. Dorsiflexion is only one of possibly hundreds of symptoms. ToeOFF and WalkAide are examples of special devices that assist at making immobilization levels more mobile. While FES is promising for some, others may not benefit from neural electric therapies and devices.

ToeOFF and other AFO may work better with patients of muscular dystrophy and diseases of weakening muscles that are not necessarily associated with nerve damage. WalkAide may have little or no effect in those cases and, ominously, dystrophies have not been indicated to be (possibly) effective using an FES product. FES has been shown to be effective by generating electrical signals along nerve pathways and the nerves that are primarily associated at controlling muscles in certain areas. Some cases of dystrophy patients may not gain positive effects from an FES device because weakness is due to a genetic disruption of a neurotransmitter called Dystrophin and those signals may not change the efficacy of those muscles that affect foot drop and some other gait issues. That is why ToeOFF may still be the most advanced form of orthosis for muscular dystrophy patients.

Understanding those subtleties requires an integrated approach between physiatrists and rehabilitation specialists familiar with the problems behind neuromuscular conditions of different severity and sources. This is one of many reasons why ToeOFF and WalkAide are prescription products. For the most part, the etiologies of many of these conditions still require further research as well. In limited studies, however, products like ToeOFF and WalkAide remain to offer considerable help for those that can benefit by them.

ToeOFF is a partial solution and professional orthotists like David Zwicker, in conjunction with your prescribing doctor, can help patients optimize mobile functions. An AFO is an appliance and the appliance fits in a shoe, primarily a New Balance sneaker is recommended. As shoes are designed for feet and not necessarily a foot and an orthosis, the material of the shoe needs to be strong and stable enough to support it. Otherwise your balance may be compromised. You may require a wider size and may find that shoes last months instead of years. It’s a consequence that can be annoying. It’s fortunate that New Balance makes shoes with several width selections. That helps. Afflicted with moderate to severe dorsiflexion, ToeOFF helps you walk more normally than if you did not wear it. As an alternative to one of those electric wheelchairs, ToeOFF is a good device.

WalkAide does not require to be placed in a shoe. The battery powered unit may be placed anywhere on the calf around the peritoneal nerve fiber that is beneath your knee. That makes WalkAide an attractive alternative but only where nerve fibers and muscles interact with functional electrical stimulation. It may not work with patients suffering from muscular dystrophies or certain myopathies.

An orthosis, like a dynamic AFO (such as the Allard ToeOFF device) is a form of prosthetic. You might have your physical leg but the muscles related to dorsiflexion (and walking) don’t work. For the past 100 years, these prosthetics were heavy and large. While wealthy victims of Polio (i.e. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt) had to learn how to use them, ToeOFF is part of a group of AFO that are light and easy to use. Neuro-prosthetics is the study and development of medical devices that replace or improve the function of damaged neuromuscular organ systems and restore normal body processes, create or improve function, and/or reduce pain.

There is no 100% solution as of yet. It is promising that technological strides are being researched to offer immobile, afflicted people some more choices at the ease of getting around. Ranges might be limited. I guess it’s better to have some mobile range than none. There is promise in better AFO and FES development as the future unfolds. At least, there is hope.

WHIPS or Walk Helping Instruments and Power Scooters

Whips often bring negative and uncommon associations to mind. WHIPS as in Walk Helping Instruments and Power Scooters are necessary devices for those with impaired walking and mobility. Use of WHIPS such as canes, walkers, crutches, braces, wheelchairs and powered scooters are becoming more prevalent and help the mobile-handicapped preserve some degree of independence. For those with ambulatory challenges, the use of WHIPS may be perceived as a negative milestone. Whether temporary or permanent, WHIPS help mobilize the otherwise immobile.

In 2011, according to Cornell University statistics, 5.8% of males and 8% of females, not institutionalized, in the United States have some form of ambulatory disability. Some States have over 10% ambulatory disability statistics. The percentage of non-institutionalized, females and males, with a ambulatory disability, ages 16-64, all races, regardless of ethnicity, with all education levels in the United States who were employed in 2011 is about 24%.

At a recent Myotonic Dystrophy support group meeting I attended, many complained of balance issues when standing or walking, slow mobility, and fear of tripping or falling. Myotonic Dystrophy is a form of Muscular Dystrophy, a genetic transmitted disease, that involves the destruction and wasting of muscles throughout the body. The disease, made popular in the USA be decades of Jerry Lewis televise telethons, currently has no treatment or cure.

I have Myotonic Dystrophy. While I might have had it since birth, most symptoms became evident in the past 5 years, though I was officially diagnosed in 2011, by genetic testing. I really appreciate and mourn the inability to walk distances, skate, bike, and a whole group of things that are now past tense. Even at my less than 1 mile per hour walk, I feel potential tip-overs to left, right, and rear. My steps are very deliberate with a constant fear of falling. As such, I added more supportive shoes and use of a cane. They offered little help. Adding prescribe therapeutic braces helped restore some walking ability. I haven’t been able to use subways for over two years. I definitely rely on WHIPS and, even with those, basic movements are often challenging. Without those WHIPS, home confinement is more likely.

Yet, at that Myotonic Dystrophy support group, many people did not use canes, wore regular sneakers, and didn’t wear supportive socks. Those that did have canes or walkers had the wrong sizes. When it comes to WHIPS, few people have access to proper information regarding proper support specifications. As a cane user with a background in research, I’m now more aware of other cane and walker users. I see the inadequacies of selected WHIPS among some and the denial of using WHIPS by others. While there are different degrees of Myotonic Muscular Dystrophy, proper WHIPS are very important.

Choosing a proper, supportive cane was an educational experience. The HurryCane is a popular cane advertised on TV. It allows one to stand the cane temporarily for certain conveniences, such as swiping a credit card at the counter or near a bench. Canes can be cumbersome when shopping or sitting in public places. I ordered one and found the cane too short for support and its adjustability was too flimsy to rely on. If you’re up to 5’9″ tall and weigh under 170 pounds, the HurryCane might be adequate. I saw too many taller and bigger people bending down to use that cane and say the cane bending with their weight. A probable accident seemed evident with continued use, especially if this is to be your personal partner for support.

The generally accepted rule for proper cane size is half your height in inches. If you are 5 feet, you are 60 inches. If you are 6 feet, you are 72 inches. I’m 74 inches and most of the sold canes were up to 36 inches. There are many online cane retailers. After lots of research, I found Fashionable Canes as a great source and resource. They offer a wide variety of styles, sizes, accessories, and tips for proper sizing. I was able to get a 37-inch wood cane that fit my height comfortably so I can walk straighter.

Weight capacity is also an issue. If you weigh 180 to 200 pounds, your cane needs to have a 250 pound capacity. You often lean down on the cane for additional support. This level of inertia adds weight on the cane, sometimes as much as 50 pounds. To assure adequate support with integrity, seek a cane that supports at least more than 40 pounds of your body weight.

While Amazon offers many cane styles and sizes, I found their specifications somewhat inaccurate. If you’re a Prime member, delivery and return privileges are rapid and liberal. But the Fashionable Cane online store, physically located in Florida, is extremely accurate and the customer service is very helpful.

One of the unexpected cane features I found at Fashionable Cane is the cane tip. The tip of the cane is very important since it meets the walking path of varied surfaces. Most canes have soft, smooth tips. Fashionable Cane tips use steel supported rubber with circular treads, providing better traction than most tips. Among accessory tips that they offer, you’ll find among the selection that deliver support like the HurryCane (quad-tip) and for walking on snowy surfaces.

Vista offers a wide variety of canes found in shoe and shoe repair stores. They are also premium WHIPS but generally are around 36 inches in height for most canes. Seek them out if you are 68 to 72 inches tall and prefer to buy one at a local provider.

Another popular instrument in the WHIPS category is the medical walker and these are very popular among women. For the most part, these are used by people around 60 to 65 inches tall, though some models adjust to 72 to 75 inches high. These permit broader walking support, especially for those suffering from osteoporosis, a crippling bone disease. These often have seats and storage available. Height is a problem here too as chronic users may develop a bent-over posture due to recalibration of the spinal vertebrae. I’ve seen some people with muscular dystrophy using these and some have already developed a hunchback appearance. Proper height and weight support are key issues here and often overlooked by providers and consumers, when considering chronic use.

Another extension of the WHIPS category are powered scooters and wheelchairs. These battery powered mobile assistive vehicles have been growing in popularity. They can greatly extend mobility range and can offer independence for advanced cases of immobility.

Most powered scooters are designed to fit on public transportation devices to help save battery power (usually up to 10 miles while carrying a 170 pound load).

I had considered this option in my earlier stages of ambulatory challenge but observed some restrictions in door entry of various stores without automated doors. I was thinking of using this as a vehicle to be able to enjoy use of nearby parks, though I haven’t seen too many in parks. The reason is these battery power devices offer minimal torque for uphill and downhill use. The convenient 3-wheel scooters may tip on the uneven leveling of paved park paths.

The EMS-48 Adult Scooter would have been perfect for use in the park but is too large for use in public transportation. At speeds up to 20 miles per hour and a huge up to 45 mile range on a battery charge, this would seem perfect. It’s like a supportive electric moped. Unfortunately, that distinction makes it illegal for use in city parks.

Mobile challenges aren’t just targeted at older people, though it seems that way. I do see people older and younger than me making use of WHIPS. Being mobility challenged is disabling in many ways, shapes and forms. Using WHIPS may help make existence more palatable. There are, as in life, benefits and consequences. The biggest consequence is the challenge and often the challenge seems insurmountable.

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross is a prominent psychologist that studied patients who were dying. She came up with the DABDA process that all patients went through. The DADA process involves Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. I observed in my neurocognitive research that this also applies to those that find challenges in overcoming other diseases, though most remain stuck in Denial.

Muscular Dystrophy, Multiple Sclerosis, Arthritis, Osteoporosis, Cerebral Palsy are diseases that can severely immobilize and affect perceptions and choices of “I can” and “I can’t”. It feels like an invisible whip striking deep to the core of being. Fortunately, with medical guidance, family support, and the responsible use of the right WHIPS, people can accept their plights and make life appear less challenging in contrast to definitions of normality. Proper WHIPS help bring redefinition and acceptance to feel better against the odds you encounter each day.