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Differences Between Orthosis and Prosthesis

Samyak Lalit
Samyak Lalit | September 13, 2023 (Last update: September 13, 2023)

Samyak Lalit is an author and disability rights activist. He is a polio survivor and the founder of projects like Kavita Kosh, Gadya Kosh, TechWelkin, WeCapable, Dashamlav and Viklangta Dot Com. Website:

Orthosis and prosthesis are terms that you might hear in a medical setting, specifically related to mobility and physical rehabilitation. While they may sound similar and are both related to enhancing physical function, they serve entirely different purposes. This article aims to shed light on the differences between orthosis and prosthesis, including their types, functions, materials, and the conditions they address. Understanding these nuances is crucial for medical professionals, caregivers, and patients alike.



An orthosis is a device designed to support, align, prevent, or correct deformities or to enhance the function of movable parts of the body. In layman’s terms, orthotic devices are used to support or correct the function of a limb or the torso.


A prosthesis is an artificial device that replaces a missing body part lost through trauma, disease, or congenital conditions. Unlike orthotic devices, which enhance existing body parts, prosthetic devices substitute for the absent ones.



  • Foot Orthotics: Inserts or insoles customized to fit inside shoes, aiding foot posture. [See: Jaipur Foot]
  • Knee Braces: Support for the knee joint, often following injury or surgery.
  • Wrist Guards: Used to stabilize the wrist, often after fractures.
  • Spinal Orthoses: Such as back braces and corsets, support the spinal column.


  • Limb Prostheses: Artificial limbs for lower or upper extremities, such as below-knee prostheses.
  • Dental Prostheses: Like dentures, they replace missing teeth.
  • Facial Prostheses: Designed for individuals who’ve lost facial features like the nose or ears.

Materials Used


Orthotic devices are often made of lightweight, durable materials like plastic, carbon fiber, and specialized foams and padding. The emphasis is on combining structural integrity with comfort.


The materials used in prosthetic devices vary depending on the type. For limb prosthetics, the focus is on materials that can mimic the natural action of the limb, such as carbon fiber for legs or specialized silicone for arms. Dental prostheses may employ ceramic or acrylic materials.



  • Support: Provide additional support to weak body parts.
  • Alignment: Ensure that body parts align correctly to perform functions.
  • Correction: Correct deformities either at birth or acquired later in life.


  • Replacement: Replace the missing part functionally and often cosmetically.
  • Aid in Mobility: In the case of limb prostheses, assist in walking or gripping.
  • Enhance Appearance: Such as facial prostheses for aesthetic and psychological benefits.

Conditions Addressed


  • Arthritis: Knee braces can offer pain relief and functional improvement.
  • Fractures: Casts and braces help in the healing process.
  • Cerebral Palsy and other types of Locomotor Disabilities: Custom-fitted orthoses can assist with mobility.


  • Amputations: Resulting from accidents, diseases like diabetes, or congenital conditions.
  • Tooth Loss: Dental prostheses improve speech and chewing ability.
  • Mastectomy: Breast prostheses help restore a natural appearance.

Fitting Process


The process often involves taking measurements or creating molds of the body part in question. Adjustments are made for comfort and optimal functionality.


The process is usually more involved, requiring multiple fittings and adjustments. The emotional aspect of adaptation is often a key component of the fitting process.

Challenges and Innovations


The primary challenges include ensuring proper fit and comfort. Innovations in 3D printing are allowing for more customized and functional orthotic devices.


Challenges involve integrating the prosthetic seamlessly with the body’s biomechanics. Advanced prosthetics now offer electronic components that interact with neural signals for more natural movement.


While orthotic and prosthetic devices both aim to improve the quality of life for individuals facing various physical challenges, they are fundamentally different in their functions and applications. Orthotic devices support, align, or correct body parts, while prosthetic devices replace them. Both fields have seen incredible advancements in materials and technology, promising even more effective solutions in the future.

Understanding these differences is not just academic; it holds real-world implications for patient care, treatment choices, and overall healthcare strategy. It is essential for clinicians and patients to be aware of these distinctions to make informed decisions that lead to optimal outcomes.

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