The evolution of orthopedics: old and modern devices

Orthopedics has rapidly changed through the 20th century. Old devices from the 18th and 19th centuries have been modernized at the dawn of the 21st century to make them more comfortable and aesthetically pleasing thanks to the new technologies and 3D printers.

Orthopedic clinics have also developed with significant advances in traumatology, and conditions such as back pain can now be alleviated without sacrificing comfort. The designs of some older devises have now even been used in fashion by designers who want to evoke the past by emulating the orthopedic devices on the eighteenth century, working aesthetically with leather straps joined to each other by buckles.

There is clear evidence of the first crutches, splints, etc. in the Egyptian civilization, and in ancient Greece, Hippocrates described splints, compression bandages, etc. and related them to clinical cases. Study of the human anatomy deepened in the Renaissance, with a corresponding evolution in the development of orthopedic devices.

It wasn’t until the 18th and 19th, and especially the 20th centuries, that orthopedics was created and the first orthopedic devices appeared. These were aimed at helping the mobility of patients affected by polio, for example with corsets, orthopedic bandages, crutches, canes, or collars. However, these were uncomfortable and ugly, and even resulted in chafing and scratching wounds.

Today, thanks to new technological advances, innovative corsets for scoliosis (spinal deformities) that can be personalized have been developed. These designs are more aesthetically pleasing, are more elastic, have better functionality, and are more comfortable. There is also ongoing work in 3D printed prostheses and in exoskeleton prototypes that can help people with paraplegia to walk. This exoskeleton could one day replace canes, crutches, and even in some cases, wheelchairs and represents a true revolution that symbolizes hope and an improvement in quality of life for those affected.


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