For over 30 years oapl has been providing Innovation Orthotic and Prosthetic Services to Australia. Check out their instagram for more: @oapl.australia

What’s involved in the field of Prosthetics and Orthotics (P&O)?

This is a common question that P&O clinicians often get asked. People will say, are you a physio or a podiatrist? The truth is, the discipline of P&O is one of its own.

The often misconception is that an orthotic is simply something that goes in your shoe. However, an orthotist does so much more. Where a prosthetic device replaces a body part, an orthotic is any brace or support that is applied to the body. These supportive devices help people with musculoskeletal injuries, weaknesses, neurological disorders and also pre and post operatively for things like acute fractures.

Why would I need to see an orthotist?

Orthotists treat a wide range of conditions including Diabetes, Arthritis, Cerebral Palsy, Stroke, Spina Bifida, Scoliosis, sports injuries, trauma, vascular diseases and more, which might require some form of corrective or supportive musculoskeletal bracing to assist in achieving greater function, mobility and comfort.

Why would I need to see a prosthetist?

An individual would need to see a prosthetist if they have lost any limb; ranging from part of a finger to losing a whole leg. Limb loss can be caused by a variety of reasons. Ranging from limb deficiency from birth, to those that have lost limbs due to trauma accidents, cancer, and most commonly peripheral vascular diseases. Lower limb amputations are far more common than upper limb amputations with the majority in Australia being below the knee. Australia also has the second highest rate of diabetic related amputations in the developed world with over 8,000 lower limb amputations occurring each year.

The NDIS and P & O

Young girl putting on orthotics.

If you currently use any type of prosthetic or orthotic, when you head to a planning meeting it is so important to think of all the supports, materials and ongoing care you require relating to your device. Although you may be able to walk with your prosthetic or orthotic, remember to mention what it is like when you don’t have that support. Believe it or not there have been people who have forgotten to mention they need a prosthetic leg to walk!

Core supports: The funds within core supports can be used for consumables as well as low cost AT (Assistive Technology). This could include custom-made or off the shelf, Solid Ankle Foot Orthosis (AFO), specific AFO socks, prosthetic socks and liners, specific creams or solutions to maintain skin integrity under your brace or prosthesis and also footwear that is most appropriate for you and your devices.

Capacity Building: As P & O’s, our services come under Improved Daily Living and this is where we can utilise funds for initial assessments, trials of different devices, report writing, quoting and ongoing reviews. One of the great benefits of NDIS and its funding is that it can also facilitate the funds to liaise with other allied health professionals to ensure your AT prescription is the most appropriate for you and your goals.

Capital Supports: Any P or O Assistive Technology device that is considered complexity Level 3 or 4 is funded through Capital. This is generally all custom-made prosthetic arms and legs, as well as custom made articulating AFO’s, KAFO’s and FES devices such as the WalkAide for Foot Drop. As a P and O, we will complete an in-depth assessment and quote to ensure the support is deemed reasonable and necessary by the NDIS.

Changes since the role out of NDIS

The NDIS is allowing participants greater access to try and be fitted with higher quality and more functional prosthetic and orthotic devices. By funding clinical time to meet and liaise with other professionals, this has help to create a multi-disciplined team approach that has a patient-centered focus and we are definitely seeing the benefits that this brings to participants lives and their ability to achieve their goals.

With the constant advances in technology it is an exciting time for our profession and our clients. Being a Prosthetist or Orthotist is a career that will no doubt help change an individual’s life. From working with new amputees to people who have suffered severe spinal injuries, it is a job that requires creativity and a fundamental understanding of the human body to ensure people are supported correctly. After all no one person is the same!

For more information on prosthetic and orthotic services, call the Australian Orthotic Prosthetic Association on (03) 9816 4620 or visit

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