What are Orthotics? Orthotics are a safe and non-invasive treatment for many foot‚ ankle, knee and back problems. Low back and lower extremity conditions often stem from‚ (or are exacerbated by)‚ poor foot biomechanics. Orthotics are custom built for your foot‚ taking into account your body’s individual needs. They can be built to fit a variety of shoe types and styles.
Why are Orthotics a Useful Therapy? The load forces on your feet are one to three times your body weight when walking‚ and can rise to four or five times your body weight when running. Vertical leaping can elevate these forces up to as much as seven times your body weight. These instances do not even take into account damage sustained by your feet being stepped on‚ twisted‚ or just standing for long periods of time. As a result‚ misalignment and dysfunction of the twenty-six small bones of the foot is a very common and significant problem.
Unfortunately‚ the problem is rarely limited to the foot itself. The reduced shock absorption and function alters the proper motion of the lower limbs‚ which in turn can destabilize pelvis and low back motions. Does this sound familiar? The human foot is a foundational element to your overall health‚ mobility and coordination.
Most foot problems stem from overuse‚ poor shoe choices‚ and/or congenital anomalies. Most of these problems can be avoided or corrected by conservative care through correct shoe dynamics‚ foot adjustments‚ (realigning of the bones for normal function)‚ foot orthotics‚ or specialized shoes. A natural approach to solving these problems of foot pain and dysfunction are fast becoming the preferred choice of treatment. Many people can avoid‚ (or at least postpone)‚ surgery by pursuing a conservative orthotic approach.
But Won't I need Surgery? Often patients hear‚ “When your pain gets bad enough‚ I’ll do surgery”. But by using orthotics‚ you take a different approach. This approach manages the kinetic chain of events that starts at the ground and goes up through the foot and into the leg‚ pelvis and lower spine. The result of which‚ really affects the entire body’s function‚ stability and balance.
The Chain Reaction of Poor Foot Mechanics Pronation of the foot‚ twists the whole leg internally and rocks the pelvis forward on the contact side and pulls the lumbar spine toward the contact leg. If the bones of the mid foot are forced into ‘Pronation’ - (lowered arch)‚ which is common‚ then the foot cannot fully ‘Supinate’‚ (lift the arch)‚ and unload the rotation of the leg‚ pelvis and low back. This leads to knee‚ hip‚ and low back pain that becomes chronic and does not respond very well under care until this is corrected.
What usually isn’t said is that these same kinetic chain motions‚ which are the result of faulty foot mechanics‚ create pain in the feet and altered weight bearing on the soles of the feet - changing their callous formations. This results in joint pain of the feet due to altered loading of fewer joints of the feet sharing the load while walking‚ running‚ or jumping. Decreased performance‚ (and disability)‚ results from these pathomechanics.
An amazing fact about the foot is that it is one of the most muscularly imbalanced parts of your body. Think about it - when do you isolate muscles for exercise in your foot? Is there a series of foot machines at your health club? Do you put rubber bands around your toes and spread them apart to strengthen them? Is there a place where you dorsiflex your foot against resistance? Or do you‚ (like most people)‚ just stuff your feet into some randomly selected shoes and expect them to take whatever abuse you throw at them? Though our feet are so spectacularly neglected‚ most people will tell you that‚ “If your feet hurt‚ your whole body hurts.”
Restoring Normal Function Orthotic manipulation of you feet is a highly skilled science and art that is taught at varying levels in the professions. A podiatrist that proposes treating your feet biomechanically with proper footwear and custom orthotics is aiming to restore normal functionality. This approach tremendously improves the patient’s overall results.
By the age of forty‚ most people could benefit greatly from foot adjustments and orthotics due to accumulated stress and trauma to their feet and body. By the age of fifty‚ most people need some form of pain relief for the ache in their feet‚ knees‚ hips‚ and low back. The ‘baby boomers’ have arrived and many do not want to have surgery on any of these joints. Consequently‚ they are looking for alternative solutions.
The closer a foot control mechanism is made to your true normal foot‚ (each joint gliding through its normal range and directing shock correctly in its proper sequence)‚ the more efficiently an orthotic can assist in that process. Shock is then attenuated and ligaments have a chance to adapt - just like a normal‚ youthful foot.