Guide to Orthotics

Orthotic devices (or ‘orthotics’ as they are colloquially referred) are mechanisms created to correct biomechanical imperfections in order to heal certain types of injury or to improve overall function. Foot orthotics are most commonly prescribed for feet as arch inserts – they are meant to correct pronation of the foot (flat-feet) or supination of the foot (high arches). Ideally, orthotic prescriptions relieve foot pain, injuries caused by foot defects, and other similar afflictions. Orthotics are custom designed following the consultation of a podiatrist, osteopathic doctor, or MD.

 

What are orthotics used for primarily?

Orthotics for feet are made to correct harmful and oftentimes painful walking/running patterns, to provide additional support in the aftermath of an injury related to foot structure, or to provide preventative support if an injury is highly probable considering an individual’s occupation and foot biomechanics.

 

How do they work?

Orthotic inserts redistribute the force impacted on the feet when an individual walks or runs. This can make running and walking more efficient and comfortable, conserving energy while absorbing shock. Orthotic production is becoming more efficient and technological every day.

 

What is a Podiatrist?

A podiatrist – or Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (DPM) – is a physician who specializes exclusively in caring for areas of the foot and ankle. Podiatrists are given training similar to that of a medical doctor – four years of undergraduate, then several years of training at one of nine accredited US medical schools of podiatry, followed by about three years of internship at a hospital. DPMs are often trained in surgery of the feet and ankles. They are in no way a lesser medical authority; podiatrists have the same amount of knowledge, it’s just all localized to the specifics of the foot and ankle and their treatment. In fact, DPMs are sought by other medical professional for their heightened understanding of the feet/ankles and for their skills associated with doctor-patient relationships. DPMs can specialize within their specialty; which leaves some primarily caring to the needs of diabetics. DPMs are regulated and licensed through the Department of Consumer Affairs’ Board of Podiatric Medicine.

 

Where do I find a DPM?

Your doctor could refer you to one – a referral increases your likelihood of a timely appointment – or you could contact the California Podiatric Medical Association for contact information on DPMs near you. They are available at (800) 794-8988; or at the site www.podiatrists.org. An informed patient is a healthier patient – contact the Department of Consumer Affairs at www.dca.ca.gov to confirm your DPM’s license and review their malpractice history. Similar information is available at the Board of Podiatric Medicine via the line (916) 263-2647 or at the address www.bpm.ca.gov.

 

I’m not an athlete – why are orthotics still relevant to me?

It is true that athletes, runners in particular, use their feet in a way which almost always can be benefitted by orthotic care. Running can put three times an individual’s body weight of force on the running feet. Minute foot structural imperfections are amplified when put under such weight, often resulting in injury or pain. But nobody has a perfect set of feet…orthotic need should be evaluated on a person to person basis until professional consultation can determine the origins of pain or injury. A slight change in body positioning via an orthotic device can profoundly improve the lives of many afflicted with daily pain. Possible red flags for orthotic treatment include: Recurrent Pain (especially back, knees, hips, ankles, legs, thighs, and feet); Feet pointing more outward/inward than usual, toes that are not all perpendicular to the foot’s base, or frequent minor injuries (like a sprained ankle).

 

But don’t they sell foot inserts in shoe stores?

Though affordable, pre-fabricated shoe inserts do not help everyone. In fact, improperly worn, such inserts can aggravate a problem or even create problems where there weren’t before. When in doubt, always seek the advice of a medical profession to determine how orthotic prescription is preferable to a generic in your particular case.

 

Well how are custom-orthotics made?

Custom orthotics are cast from molds made by a patient’s foot taken at a podiatrist’s office. Some podiatrists have the tools to create their own orthotic devices, but most send the prescription to a pedortic/orthotic laboratory (similar to how some dentists send away for dentures). The professionals who work for such orthotic-producing companies are called pedorthists or orthotists.

 

Can foot orthotics replace surgery?

If orthotics are an option in the place of surgery, it is definitely preferable – but would likely only help over long term use, unlike surgery. Meaning, if you are at the point of surgery, orthotics will most likely only be relevant in a post-operation regimen. However, orthotics are provided in order to prevent surgery quite often (that than to substitute it).

 

Do any conditions warrant special care in choosing orthotics?

There are conditions which much be treated very delicately when orthotics are involved. Heel pain, plantar fasciitis and other require a gait analysis before deciding on orthotics. These primarily concern (but are not limited to) the conditions of arthritis and diabetes. Diabetics especially require specialized orthotic care; meaning a diagnosis and prescription from a licensed medical professional.

Pain is not ordinary, and orthotics – if properly prescribed – are options for many individuals with all kinds of varying lifestyles and medical conditions. They can be tremendously effective. Never settle for a life in pain, always explore your medical options.

Snoring and Your Teeth

At first glance, snoring sounds like it’s just a simple nuisance. It’s loud and annoying, but it’s also a sign of a more important condition known as sleep apnea. Not all people who snore have sleep apnea, but due to the conditions dangerous nature, it’s always best to get it checked just in case. Sleep apnea is a very common and serious condition that usually goes undiagnosed. In some cases, leaving sleep apnea diagnosed can lead to an increased risk for cardiovascular disease, as well as many other complications. There are many doctors available that have experience in treating sleep apnea. Some even specialize in it, and can help you get back to a normal, healthy sleep.

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Dental Teeth

Sleep apnea causes multiple moments where breathing is interrupted and stopped in the middle of sleep. The only way to start breathing again is for the brain to wake up a little bit, even if you don’t wake up enough to actually know that it’s going on. It could be happening hundreds of times a night. This activity stops the brain from being able to reach a full, peaceful sleep. The REM that you need in order to function is never reached. On top of that, because of the lack of oxygen, the brain tells the heart to work harder and pump more blood. This can lead to other health conditions, such as:

  • Hearth attack
  • High blood pressure
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Cardiac arrhythmia
  • Stroke

Some of the mental health risks for sleep apnea include being tired during the day, depression, mood swings, memory problems, and morning headaches.
The good news is, sleep apnea is treatable. The most common treatment method involves the use of a customized oral device. It looks similar to an athletic mouthguard, and it’s worn at night in order to keep the airways open while you sleep. You can also get the best dentist in port st lucie Florida if you need.

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Different types of Orthotics

Orthotics mainly consist of shoe inserts or other such devices that have the purpose of providing balance and support, as well as alleviating pain.

The following are a few common types of orthotics that you can choose from.

 

The arch support

These are a type of insert that prevent strain of the ligaments in the arch of the foot, and often wrap around the foot and under the arch for stability. They can be easily found because they are designed for the average foot, and can be useful if a bit of extra support is all you need. However, they provide no benefit for the flat foot or the high arched foot, and can do more harm than good in these cases.

The shoe insert

Many stores carry these because they are easy to maintain and have no custom specifications. They come in the form of pads made of soft materials such as gels, and have no medical role other than providing extra cushioning between the foot and the sole of the shoe.

Over The Counter Orthotics

These are arch supports which can be modified slightly to match the general shape and size of the foot. However, in spite of their relatively low price, they are not custom fitted to your exact specifications and they can be a bit of a hit and miss. While, for all intents and purposes, they provide extra support that could help improve your foot and ankle problems, they can also increase the damage if they are not adjusted accordingly. They also provide little to no relief for people suffering from a flat foot or high arched foot.

Heat Moldable Orthotics

These, like the previous type, are also available off-the-shelf, but they can be modified to fit your specifications by using heat. The original product has a default shape and size, and is only modified after purchase however.  The can provide mild support for a lower price than custom orthotics, but will also wear out quickly, as often as every 6 months for active people who enjoy walking or running.

Custom Orthotics

Custom orthotics are designed especially for every person who needs them, based on their walking pattern, the deformation of the foot, or any abnormal motion that needs to be corrected. Because they are made in this way, they are considered a more long term solution, which can provide practical relief for all correctable problems in gait or deformation, and will indeed offer support for flat or high arched feet that other products cannot address with the same accuracy.

 

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Physiotherapy Ottawa

 

 

Common foot conditions and how to avoid them

Your feet have the very important job of getting you from place to place, so they have to put up with quite a bit of punishment throughout the day. This is why it’s essential to ensure that we put as little strain as possible on them so that we can be free and comfortable to perform all of our day to day activities without worrying about foot pain or fatigue.

These are a few of the most common health issues associated with the foot and how to avoid and treat them appropriately.

Plantar Fasciitis

This is the main cause of heel pain in people who perform physically intensive tasks that require them to be on their feet for prolonged periods of time. In a nutshell, plantar fasciitis occurs when the ligaments in the foot’s arch are strained.

Because these ligaments have an essential role in keeping us balanced during the shift from one foot to another, it should come as no surprise that women wearing high heels are the ones most prone to suffering from this condition. To further underline how strenuous high heels can be, the other main group of people affected by plantar fasciitis are professional athletes who have to constantly train and push the limits of what their bodies can withstand.

In order to heal or ameliorate its symptoms, the inflammation of the area must be allowed to subside, and the best way to do that is to allow the foot to rest.

The RICE method, which stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation, is a proven method that helps accelerate the healing process.

In order to prevent damage to our ligaments we can also wear arch braces or insoles that comfortably match the shape of our feet and provide the necessary support.

Corns and Calluses

Whenever we wear uncomfortable shoes, our feet are subjected to pressure and friction, and although this seems trivial in this day and age where comfort tends to fall in third place, after the aesthetics of a pair of new shoes and their price, it can lead to problems like corns and calluses.

Simply put, these are hardened layers of skin that occur at the point of contact where friction occurs, and they can be quite painful and lead to other, more serious, problems. An easy way to prevent this is to simply remove the source of friction by wearing shoes that fit comfortably, and if possible, made out of materials that are not too rigid and allow them to adapt to the shape of the foot.

Bunions

Ill-fitting shoes can lead to more severe conditions than that, however. A bunion is a deformation of the foot, which occurs in the shape of a protrusion at the base of the toe. These are extremely painful and, in severe cases, often require corrective surgery to relieve pain and repair the foot.

In milder cases, ice and analgesics can help with the paint, but this is only a temporary fix, and the only real solution is replacing the shoe wear with something comfortable that does not apply unnecessary pressure to the bones of the foot.

Bunion Surgery

Before we talk about what happens during bunion surgery, it’s a good idea to understand the main causes of bunion, and why surgery is necessary in some cases.

High heels or shoes with a tight toe box are one big factor that contributes to such deformations of the foot, as well as genetics and arthritis, especially if these health conditions are common in your family.

However, just because other members of your family suffer from bunions does not automatically mean you are going to develop it as well. In fact, all of these are mostly contributing factors, and a very important aspect that is often overlooked, is the biomechanics of walking.

Your feet contain a multitude of small bones that work together to provide accuracy and balance as you move. Because of the intricacy of this bone structure, it is important to maintain it as it is and put as little strain on it as possible. The body is highly adaptive, and if we restrict its movement by applying pressure or unnatural movement to certain parts of it, it will eventually relearn how to move. However, by forcing it to adapt in this way, it stops working the way it was designed to, which leads to pain and discomfort.

As such, the genetics of it are only responsible for bunions to the extent that we may imitate patterns of movement that lead to such problems, or choose the wrong type of shoe because of peer pressure or other factors. And other underlying problems like arthritis obviously impair and affect movement itself. Hence, we need to pay close attention to our biomechanics and not ignore any discomfort, as this is our body’s way of saying something needs to change for it to function correctly.

Today, there are over 100 medical ways for a podiatrist to surgically correct a bunion, and these vary from applying a cast to the foot to force it back into a correct position, to cutting small wedges into the metatarsal bones affected by it and shifting them back into place.

Although these procedures can seem gruesome and scary, professionals know that, once the procedure is done, the patient can walk immediately after the surgery with the help of a special boot meant to distribute the pressure away from the affected area. The foot takes a bit more time to recover completely, and depending on the severity of the bunion, it can take up to two month before the patients can perform high impact activities like running or jumping, but in as little as 2 weeks, most can return to wearing regular shoes and walking normally.

It is also good to remember that if your bunion is severe, a less invasive procedure will not correct the deformity entirely, and could lead to it occurring again in the future, and a new intervention being performed. And even though it may require a slightly more invasive procedure, it is preferable to undergo it in order to gain the full benefit in the long run.

But, as always it is best to prevent than to treat, and one should keep in mind that this type of affection only gets worse with time, and the sooner it is treated, the less invasive the corrective procedure will be.