Most of us have heard of orthotics, and have likely heard personal anecdotes spanning life changing miracles to tales of discomfort and empty wallets.

Each day, we podiatrists witness how effective these pieces of plastic and foam can be in managing load and force, to reduce pain and dysfunction, though also bear the weight of common misconceptions and misunderstandings around orthotic therapy. 

You are all ultimately responsible for our own health because, let’s face it, it’s YOUR HEALTH! 

With the plethora of information available at our fingertips, EDUCATION becomes our strongest weapon in decision making. What and who we trust with our health and where we invest our time, effort and hard earned dollars should be a decision made with trust and confidence. 

It’s for this reason I wanted to delve into WHAT orthotics are, WHEN they should be used as well as the different TYPES and so that you can be EDUCATED and see orthoses in the light we podiatrists do at Hunter Podiatry Services.

Orthoses are a weapon in the arsenal of load management. 

 

As podiatrists, the most common injuries we see are overuse or chronic in nature. That is, they occur gradually over a long period of time.

 

 

 

This can be a result of many factors including; 

  • Training error (intensity, duration, frequency)
  • Poor footwear 
  • Previous injury
  • Poor mechanics/technique

 

Can orthotics reverse the fact you hit 5 hectic boot camp sessions the first week following a huge Christmas and no exercise for 3 months??? Nope!

 

Can they change the way your big toe loads and reduce the pressure irritating your little sesamoid bones under the joint?? Yep! 

Orthotics work so well because they CHANGE LOAD

  • Nearly every injury of the foot/ankle involves a change in LOAD for the worse; whether that be a direct force like that is the case in a car crash, or gradual OVERLOAD as a result of poor foot mechanics.

What orthotics do well is CHANGE LOAD to encourage efficiency and UNLOAD damaged structures (muscle, tendon, ligament, cartilage and bone). 

In some cases, this is only necessary for weeks or months and an orthotic can be used sparingly after that. 

For others like;

  • structural deformities (eg; Bunions, arthritis)
  • chronic forces (standing occupations, )
  • or global inefficiencies (hypermobility, low tone, neurological conditions)

These may require more regular use of orthotics to manage and/or prevent injury. 

We treat you as a whole. We always use Orthotics in conjunction with adjunctive therapies (taping, dry needling, mobilisations) and we recommend complimenting them with strengthening exercises for best results. We understand LOAD and how to adjust it to keep you active, but speed your recovery. 

 

Orthotics are rarely the silver bullet. In combination with training and lifestyle modifications, changes to footwear and structured rehabilitation, orthotics can prove the difference when managing lower-limb injury. 

 

Orthotics may be an important piece of the puzzle if you have lower-limb pain, injury or deformity. Not sure if that’s you? Ask us!

 

Darby, Podiatrist

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