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If you’re struggling to get back to daily living after a severe foot or ankle injury, the Return to Performance Pathway Program can give you a clear path to recovery in under 6 weeks. The program at Atrium Health Carolinas Rehabilitation combines physical therapy and a custom orthosis (state-of-the-art bracing). Our approach can help patients overcome serious lower limb injuries, and it’s so effective that some patients decide not to go through with amputation.

Patient Care – What to Expect

The Return to Performance Pathway Program is a 4-to-6-week rehabilitation that is based on the Return to Run program that was developed and tested by the military. The Return to Performance Pathway Program was designed by a team of surgeons, physical therapists and orthotists at Atrium Health, Carolinas Rehabilitation and the Hanger Clinic. Our patients benefit from:

  • The latest therapies: We use advanced, creative and diverse physical therapy and a custom fit orthosis to help you return to the activities you love.
  • Research-driven approach: We’re leading research to transform the way we treat lower limb injuries. Many patients participate in our studies and take pride in helping us shape the next generation of innovative treatments. Learn more about our Clinical Research.
  • Customized care: We’ll partner with you to understand your rehabilitation goals – whether it’s running a 5K or chasing your grandkids around the yard. Then we’ll tailor a treatment plan to help you achieve those goals.
  • Team approach: Our team of physical therapists work with surgeons, orthotists and researchers to give you the best possible care. If you live outside of North and South Carolina, we also have a Global Healthcare Services team able to assist you with your visit. This team helps coordinate your medical treatment, appointments, travel logistics and all other arrangements to make your care as easy and convenient as possible.

Hilda Rides On

Hilda wouldn’t let a serious injury stop her from living her best life. Learn about her rehabilitation journey and see how we helped her get back to work as a spin instructor.

Hilda Rides On

What We Treat

We most commonly work with patients who have experienced traumatic lower leg, ankle and foot fractures. We also support people with the following conditions:

  • Moderate to severe ankle arthritis
  • Post-surgical club foot
  • Prior surgeries to save a foot or lower leg after trauma that have resulted in pain and limited activity during recovery
  • Continued foot and ankle pain with inability to reach the desired level of recovery and activity, despite trying other bracing

Return to Performance Pathway Program Overview

We work to maximize your movement and ability using a custom orthosis. Once you have your orthosis, we’ll use physical therapy to help you achieve your physical activity goals.

Custom Brace (Variable Cadence Orthosis)

Certified orthotists create a custom device, built to meet your exact needs. This device helps patients increase their comfort and abilities during movement, creating a new option for people who had previously considered amputation due to poor function and pain. This style of orthosis has enriched the lives of hundreds of people by helping them return to a more active lifestyle.

Physical Therapy

You’ll need to wear this orthosis anytime you want to enhance your performance while you’re moving (it’s not a temporary correction for an injury, like wearing a boot). We’re here to help you feel confident and comfortable wearing it. We focus on each client as an individual with unique abilities and distinct goals. Our team of experts works together to help you achieve your goals.

Get to Know Our Lead Physical Therapist

Tarey Strickland has worked as a physical therapist for over 25 years, of which over 20 have been at Atrium Health. Before coming here, she built a multidisciplinary lower extremity (leg and foot) wound care program within the VA (Veterans Health Administration) system to help decrease amputation risk.

Now, as the lead physical therapist at the Return to Performance Pathway Program, Tarey has created a pathway to enhance mobility and quality of life for patients with various lower leg conditions. This work involves using a custom brace (the Variable Cadence Orthosis) to hold the foot and ankle in a specific position to help patients recover lost capabilities.

Tarey works closely with Joseph Hsu, MD, Director, Limb Lengthening and Deformity Service, orthotists and researchers to deliver patient-empowered results. Her expertise in Variable Cadence Orthosis rehabilitation is a vital asset to the program, and her unwavering dedication to her clients helps enrich the lives of everyone she works with.

Frequently Asked Question About the Variable Cadence Orthosis