The pandemic has affected people from different walks of life. Many industries were severely affected that led to changes in how they go about their businesses. The orthotics industry is no exception to this. They, too, share the challenges brought about by the pandemic which halted everyone's lives.
Orthotics assist with various medical conditions like correcting flat feet, for example. They also assist with the alignment of joints or the maintenance of muscles and connective tissue around the joints. It is safe to say that orthotics and movement thus go hand in hand.
During the pandemic, most people were confined in their homes, and movement was severely restricted in some cases. Individuals are forced to practice an inactive lifestyle even after the heavy restrictions were lifted, as more people continue to work from home.
Inactivity may have many different complications for the human body such as weight gain, decreased muscle use from irregular exercise, and decline in mental health. Many other factors contribute to health issues related to the orthotics industry.
Many people are now considering various options from the Allied Health in Melbourne due to the rising risk factors the pandemic may have in different areas of their health. With the possible surge in cases, the orthotics industry may adopt new ways to deal with them efficiently.
Below are some of the ways the post-pandemic world may change the orthotic industry specifically:
1. Increased Patient Load
The inactive lifestyle may lead to decreased physical activity, which in turn, could lead to altered posture, joint alignment issues, atrophy or wasting away of muscles, or increased cases of acrocyanosis due to lowered blood flow to extremities.
Regular exercise strengthens the joints and muscles which support the body in many different ways. By not using these muscles and joints, patients are more likely to need extra support.
Being less active might increase the occurrence of the abovementioned conditions and thus increase the patient load of the orthotics industry as these are common issues that orthotics would most likely help to correct.
2. Child And Adolescent Cases On The Rise
Children and adolescents generally need more freedom to move than adults. Their musculoskeletal system is still growing. Regular exercise and playing that includes a variety of movements assist this growth.
Due to the restrictions of the pandemic, most children or adolescents were also confined to their homes, thus decreasing their physical activity, affecting their growth, and causing more issues that may need to be addressed with orthotics.
Posture issues like mal-alignment of the spine, hips, and shoulders may be caused by the overuse of electronic devices like computers, cellular phones, or tablets. Atrophy of the foot and calf muscles could also become a more regular occurrence as children are not running or engaging in more active play.
3. Weight Gain Complications
With inactivity inevitably comes an increase in weight. Whether slight or significant, the extra body mass may cause a greater strain on joints in the knees and feet. The increase in weight may lead to the orthotic being ineffective or even completely useless.
Firmer materials might be considered when constructing the orthotic to assist the patient more efficiently. The orthotic might also need to be wider to make the surface area larger to carry more weight. For most patients, the orthotics become uncomfortable, and they might struggle to adjust or find the perfect fit.
These patients would also need closer monitoring as they tend to not wear their orthotics as directed. Their weight should also be monitored for adjustments to the devices if necessary.
Orthotics may assist the patient to lose extra weight by supporting the musculoskeletal system during exercise and activities. For this reason, we might observe an increase in orthotics use for overweight patients.
4. Rising Co-Morbid Conditions
The pandemic has caused a rise in co-morbid conditions alongside the actual infection. Some of these co-morbid conditions may include diabetes and COVID toes. These conditions may cause extra strain on the feet and could cause complications when using orthotics.
Untreated or unchecked diabetes could affect the nerves of the feet that could lead to open sores, numbness, or even acrocyanosis where the toes may be discolored and swollen. The patient would then be more likely not to use their orthotics as it becomes too uncomfortable or perhaps unbearable.
COVID toes, on the other hand, may cause similar symptoms to unchecked diabetes but include blistering or pus-filled areas below the skin. This makes the wearing of orthotics uncomfortable and patients tend to wear open shoes or no shoes at all until the symptoms subside.
Co-morbid conditions are on the increase and post-pandemic complications like these may affect the future of orthotics use.
5. Close Monitoring On Mental Health
Most people would not realize the relationship between decreased mental health and orthotics, but there is a definite link.
When patients are depressed, especially when they aren’t as active as they were. The pandemic has given rise to an increased number of mental health problems and these patients need more intense care and should be monitored more closely.
They would often feel that there is no meaning to their life, so why would they prioritize the use of their orthotics? It is important to note these mood changes when the patient visits the office. Recommendations for extra support should be made to these patients.
An increased number of mental health issues could mean closer monitoring of patients and an increase in referrals to other health professionals.
The orthotics industry might see a shift in the patient load, seriousness of conditions, and additional challenges caused by the pandemic. In this article, we have discussed several contributing factors, although there may be many more left to explore.
The best course of action for the evolving health complications could be to monitor patients for any signs or symptoms of change in their routine involving the use of their orthotics. Referring patients to other professionals could also be a wise approach.
Keeping an open mind and using out-of-the-box solutions might also be part of the future for orthotics.