What is an orthotist? What are orthoses? Aren’t they called orthotics? (NO!) This post provides some general insight and defines common language used in the world of orthoses.

What is an orthotist?

An orthotist is a person who has a degree in Orthotics and Prosthetics, and is qualified to assess for, prescribe, cast, measure, fit, adjust and review orthoses/prostheses and orthotic/ prosthetic treatment plans. Being qualified as an orthotist/ prosthetist means you can practice in both fields, however most clinicians tend to choose a field in either orthotics or prosthetics. The choice to practice in either field is heavily influenced by state regulations (i.e: in New South Wales if you wish to work in the public healthcare system, you will only be able to practice in the field of orthotics, as the field of prosthetics is privatised).  In Australia, the only place where one can study Orthotics and Prosthetics is La Trobe University Bundoora, Victoria. This site also hosts the National Centre for Prosthetics and Orthotics Australia.  Graduates now hold a Clinical Masters in Orthotics and Prosthetics.

What is an Orthosis?

An orthosis is a device that is placed upon the body which modifies external forces in order to support, align or treat musculoskeletal deformities, or may assist a person with achieving their activities of daily living. In short; a brace. There are many different types, and branching from that, there are many different styles. Some can be prefabricated (also known as off the shelf) and then customised, others require a complete custom design.

You may hear the words “orthotics” “orthosis”  and “splint” being thrown around, but it is important to note what words should be used in what context; you wouldn’t say you were going to the dentist because your teeths hurt. In the same regards, I do not fit “orthotics”, I fit orthoses! An orthosis is the singular noun (just one), orthoses mean two or more, and the word orthotic is an adjective; you could say you have an orthotic device, or need an orthotic treatment plan, but please remember you do not have orthotics! You have orthoses! (The improper use of orthosis/ orthotic is very common even among clinicians and doctors. I’m on a one woman mission to change that…)

If you would like to know about different styles of orthoses, I will be releasing a post shortly about different types.

Thanks for reading,

The Supportive Orthotist.

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