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Posted by Dr. Scott Wilson | 10-Oct-2018
Foot pain is something that we often ignore because we think it’s not a big deal. However, ignoring foot pain can lead to trouble walking and damage that can take too long to reverse. For many of us, we only present our foot pain to a doctor after months or even years of suffering in silence. In fact, foot pain is easily treatable by wearing custom orthotics and working with a physiotherapist.
What are custom orthotics?
Custom orthotics are removable shoe inserts that are created to alleviate pain, correct imbalances and restore foot positioning. They may look like traditional insoles you can purchase at the drugstore, but custom orthotics are actually biomechanical medical appliances. Custom orthotics require a prescription because they are designed for the individual based on their exact foot structure.
Think of custom orthotics as you would a pair of glasses. If you have vision problems, you visit an optometrist and they give you an eye exam to determine which prescription you’ll need to restore your vision. Glasses are made especially for your eyes and when you put them on, you can see perfectly. Custom orthotics work in the same way by being fitted to your feet. If you were to walk without orthotics in your shoes, you would still have the same foot problems. If you were to put your custom inserts into your shoes and walk, you’ll notice a big difference as the orthotics help realign your foot (or feet if it’s both that have issues) into its proper position.
Custom orthotics reduce the strain on your body, distribute weight evenly and correct your specific foot issues. Since an imprint of your foot has been made to create the orthotics, they will fit comfortably in your shoes and work to redirect and reduce motions that are off or imbalanced during your gait cycle. Custom orthotics alleviate pain and reduce the workload of the foot muscles that are strained from overcompensating when you walk.
What happens when you don’t treat foot problems?
Custom orthotics treat many foot illnesses such as achilles tendonitis, chronic back and joint pain from structural damage or imbalance, plantar fasciitis, poor biomechanics, fallen arches, making the wrong repetitive movements, and trauma from a fracture. If you choose not to wear your orthotics, you will be further damaging your feet to the point where it could lead to serious health issues. For example, custom orthotics are able to restore joint alignment in order for the surrounding muscles and connective tissue to maintain their function. When the joints in the foot are misaligned, the tissues and muscles can’t do their job and they in turn become strained leading you to have major problems. These problems will spread beyond the foot and effect the ankles, hips, knees and back until you’ve lost most of your mobility. Remember that your feet support your entire body and if they can’t do their job properly, the rest of your body will suffer.
Chronic pain is a problem if you don’t treat foot issues. If you forgo orthotics and treat foot pain with pain medications you could find yourself exceeding the daily recommended dose for the medications. Eventually you will need something stronger just to deal with the daily foot pain and there’s only so much your doctor can prescribe before recommending that you get fitted for custom orthotics and stop taking pain medication altogether.
Where do you get custom orthotics made?
Because they are fitted to the exact dimensions of your feet, you cannot purchase custom orthotics at the pharmacy. The orthotics that are found at drugstores are designed in a one-size-fits-all manner which does more harm than good. Instead, you will need a prescription from your doctor or need to visit a physiotherapy clinic (like Physiomed) where there are certified orthotists on staff or they have a partnership with one.
A certified orthotist is a trained professional who works to provide care for people suffering from foot ailments. After evaluating the design of your feet, the certified orthotist creates a customized insert that treats your specific ailments. The orthotist may also work with your doctor and physiotherapist to come up with a custom treatment plan to ensure that all lost mobility is restored before it leads to permanent deformities of the feet. When the certified orthotist explores your entire foot in order to determine the underlying medical cause of your ailment, your overall health and lifestyle. This helps them create a customized solution for your problems.
How are custom orthotics made?
As technology advances, so does the creation of custom orthotics. Previously, plaster casts were made of a patient’s foot. By dipping the foot in plaster or fiberglass strips, a mold was formed once the materials dried and hardened. This mold which resembled a cast you’d get for a broken limb, was then sent to an orthotics lab along with the prescription for the insert. At the lab, the cast would be used to create the orthotic. This process is accurate but time consuming. New technology allows for a quicker creation of custom orthotics through specialized software. This software features a digital foot scanner on which a patient places their foot on the device. The scanner uses light to create a virtual 3D model that is submitted electronically with your prescription to the orthotics lab. Once at the lab, the technicians can make your custom orthotics based on the exact measurement of your foot and prescription.
The materials used to make your orthotics are durable and built to last. Custom orthotics are designed to withstand the weight of your body while correcting your foot ailments and reducing pain. You should wear your orthotics as often as your physiotherapist tells you to. If you do not wear them, you’re not only wasting money, but you will find yourself in more pain than before with reduced mobility.
Coupling custom orthotics with physiotherapy plays an important role in your overall foot health. Because foot abnormalities cannot disappear on their own, you will need a treatment plan that involves custom orthotics and physiotherapy. Contact Physiomed today to learn more.
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