PUT SOME SPRING IN YOUR STEP!
With warm weather just around the corner, many of us are eager to become more active outdoors. Every spring I see many people who start out with great intentions to begin a fitness regime that involves walking or running, only to end up injured within a few weeks. Many of these injuries are a result of imbalances in the lower limb, especially feet.
Think of your car, if your wheels are out of alignment but you only drive to the grocery store and back once a week, you probably won’t notice any problems. However, if you decide to drive to Vancouver with your wheels misaligned you will most likely notice some excessive or uneven tire wear. Your body reacts in the same way, you may never have noticed a problem before, but if you begin increasing your activity level any misalignments in your feet can cause heel, ankle, arch, hip or even low back pain.
Orthotics can help minimize any imbalances, and help prevent lower limb injuries. Unfortunately, there are many misconceptions regarding orthotics which I hope to address in this article.
WHAT IS AN ORTHOTIC?
- Orthotics are medical devices inserted into your shoes to help balance your posture and keep you in alignment.
WHY DO I NEED ORTHOTICS?
- Your feet are your foundation. Any weakness or unstable positioning in either foot can contribute to postural problems throughout the rest of the body.
- By stabilizing and balancing the feet, custom-made orthotics help to enhance your body’s performance and efficiency, reduce pain and contribute to your total body wellness.
HOW CAN THEY HELP ME?
- Orthotics promote proper alignment of the feet. They allow the muscles, tendons and bones of the feet and lower legs to function properly. When appropriately prescribed, orthotics can decrease pain, not only in the foot, but also in other parts of the body such as knees or lower back.
WHAT ABOUT OFF THE SHELF ORTHOTICS?
- No one else’s feet are exactly like yours. Prefabricated orthotics, mass-produced to fit an “average” foot, may cost less, but usually do not properly correct the specific problems and may end up doing more harm than good. Many times, this type of orthotic can worsen a condition and create problems elsewhere in the body.
WHO NEEDS THEM?
- In addition to providing relief for a painful foot problem or an injury, those who may benefit from orthotics include people who must walk or stand for extended periods, or those who must stand on hard surfaces such as tile or concrete.
- For those who are active in sports, orthotics often increase endurance, performance and strength.
- For overweight individuals, orthotics can help to counteract the extra stress on the feet, as minor problems are often magnified due to the increased weight.
- Children who complain of “tired feet” or seem to fatigue quicker than expected with running or walking may benefit from orthotics. Certain gait patterns require the foot and lower limb to work harder than they should causing excessive fatigue.
WHAT IF MY FEET DON’T HURT?
- Even if your feet don’t hurt, a weakened foundation may seriously affect the rest of your body. If you are currently having knee, hip, low back, or neck pain, your feet may not be supporting joints, bones, or soft tissues above the ankles properly.
- Think prevention! If you wait until you are in pain, then there is already damage that may have been preventable.
HOW DO I GET THEM?
- A Chiropractor, who has extensive knowledge of biomechanics and gait analysis, will ask about any medical problems or pain you may be experiencing. You should receive a computerized gait analysis and complete foot assessment.
- Based on an individuals particular problem or needs, the doctor makes a recommendation about whether orthotics will be helpful or if some other treatment is warranted.
DOES MY INSURANCE COVER ORTHOTICS?
- Many extended benefit plans do cover custom orthotics, but every plan is different. It is best to consult your detailed plan benefits booklet or website. Pay particular attention to whether you need a prescription to be fully covered, and what professionals are permitted to prescribe. Many plans require an MD prescription. When in doubt it is best to call first or have your chiropractor send in an estimate prior to ordering your custom orthotics.
Dr. Sheila Hubscher, B.Sc D.C.