Men's Articles

Physical Aids

The use of physical aids to assist people with handicaps or special physical needs has evolved over several centuries. Most of the progress in the development of the devices and their application has occurred, however, since the end of World War II. Physical medicine was established as a result of the large numbers of young, seriously handicapped persons who were either injured in one of the World Wars or had contracted poliomyelitis.

Physical medicine then became available for the treatment of patients with problems such as fractures, burns, tuberculosis, strokes, nerve and spine injuries, diabetes, birth defects, arthritis, and vision and speech impairments, to name only a few. Physical aids are a major part of the rehabilitative process used in physical medicine, but not the only factor.

Frequently a rehabilitation team will bring together a number of specialists whose expertise and techniques will all play a role in the patient's pain relief, improvement or maintenance of functions such as strength and mobility, and training in activities of daily living. The physical therapy used can include heat, massage, exercise, electrical currents, and functional training, which is another way to describe teaching a patient how to safely and effectively carry out day-to-day activities.

In this capacity physical aids do play a major role. Functional training may involve learning how to use crutches, a walker, or a specialized wheelchair; how to use an artificial leg or arm; or it may involve teaching a man with an unbendable knee how to climb stairs. Such training can require long hours of practice and often employs the use of a physical aid. Some of the most common physical aids in use are generally not thought of as something needed because of a handicap...eye glasses, contacts, hearing aids, or dentures.

These are all physical aids because they are needed to augment or supplement the body's deficient organ or body part. There are physical aids more easily recognized as such: canes, crutches, prostheses, walkers, and wheelchairs; and there are some less obvious: catheters and trusses. Using the definition that a physical aid is a supplement or augmentation, even Braille is a physical aid, because the invention of this communication device enables those who are blind or visually impaired to communicate in writing.

Without the use of physical aids, many of us would not be able to function as easily in our daily lives. We can see better, hear better, walk better, generally live better as a result. As medicine and technology evolve, so will physical aids as they become increasingly more specialized, miniaturized, computerized, etc. Many of the devices used today may no longer be necessary in the 21st Century.


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