10 Tips for Decorating an Orthosis

Create beautiful orthoses that put a smile on your patient's face

Once you have fabricated an orthosis for a patient, how are you going to ensure that they wear it as prescribed? You can (and should) explain to your patient how wearing the orthosis will help in their recovery, but it might also be worth your time and effort to decorate the orthosis and/or personalize it so that they feel it is special and worthwhile to wear.

Here are ten tips for decorating an orthosis to get you started:

 

1. Let your patient show their truest colours

Begin to personalize the orthosis by allowing your patient a choice of coloured thermoplastic materials such as Orfit Colors NS or Orfilight in Beige, Black or Atomic Blue.

A pile of colorful thermoplastic materials for orthotic fabrication

Orfit Colors NS 2.0 mm (1/12”) or Orficast.

 

2. Get creative with hook and loop straps

Have the patient choose different coloured hook and loop straps to firmly adhere the orthosis to their hand or arm. Let the patient choose colours to support their favourite sports team.

Hook and loop straps can add a colourful touch to an orthosis.

 

3. Remove the coating on non-stick materials for excellent adherence

Remember to remove the coating on all coated thermoplastic materials if you want to attach anything to the surface. Do this by scraping carefully with scissors or sanding with sandpaper or a file.

Remove the non-stick coating with scissors, sandpaper or a file.

 

4. Use dry heat to make the material sticky

Dry heat will make the thermoplastic material sticky, ensuring that your decorations adhere firmly and securely.

Use the heat gun very lightly on the surface of the orthosis until it gets slightly sticky. Do not overheat the orthosis or you may alter the shape and fit.

Use dry heat to make the surface of the orthosis sticky.

 

5. Mix and match with stickers

Stickers can easily be adhered to the surface, and are available in multiple designs featuring shapes, animals, favourite characters and sports teams. Let your patient tell a story through stickers.

Orthosis with panda stickers by Anna Ovsyannikova.

 

6. Accessorize with plastic jewels

Plastic jewels can be adhered by embedding them first in scraps of thermoplastic that have been heated with the dry heater, and then “glued” to the base orthosis. The dry heater makes the thermoplastic material very sticky while hot water just helps with moulding the material.

Sparkly orthosis by Anna Ovsyannikova.

7. Explore the possibilities of colourful duct tape

Duct tape now comes in fancy patterns and designs and can be used to cover portions of the orthosis or even the entire orthosis. This might help if you do not have any materials in the exact colour the patient desires.

 

8. Attach beads

Beads can be added to an orthosis by attaching them to elastic threads or paper clip wires and then adhering with thermoplastic scraps of material.

Colorful beads for the decoration of an orthosis

Beads, in many sizes and colours, make a nice addition to any orthosis.

 

9. Draw on the orthosis with a marker

Use permanent markers to colour designs or draw pictures on the base orthosis. You can add an extra loop to the orthosis as a marker holder. This way, the patient always has a marker on hand when friends and family want to sign their names.

 

10. Re-purpose colourful thermoplastic scraps

Use scraps of coloured thermoplastic materials to create designs or shapes on the base orthosis. Adhere by using the dry heater on both the orthosis and the additions.

Inspired by the sea. Orthosis decorated with thermoplastic scraps by Anna Ovsyannikova.

 

We hope these ideas will inspire you to be creative and fabricate orthoses that are not only comfortable and anatomically correct, but also pleasing to your patient and helpful at supporting the wearing schedule as prescribed.

 

Written by Debby Schwartz, OTD, OTR/L, CHT

Physical Rehabilitation Product and Educational Specialist at Orfit Industries America.

Debby is a hand therapist with over 34 years of clinical experience. She completed her Doctorate of Occupational Therapy at Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions in 2010.

She is also an adjunct professor at the Occupational Therapy Department of Touro College in NYC and has written many articles for hand therapy journals, including the ASHT Times and the Journal of Hand Therapy.

 

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