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Sheltering Arms Blog

Orthotics are not Solely for the Feet

Posted on: October 2, 2018 by Sheltering Arms

By Bryan Gilreath, PT, DPT, OCS, CWCE

A common way that patients are treated for foot pain is with the use of shoe orthotics. The orthotics are either custom-fitted by a healthcare professional or purchased over the counter. While most people consider something that goes in a shoe to be an answer for issues related to the foot, the benefits of orthotics do not stop there.

When considering walk or gait pattern, there are many things that need to happen at different joints of the body to create forward motion. When the foot hits the ground to take a step, it is actually the joints above the foot working in combination to provide movement. Ground interaction subsequently affects all the joints above the foot and can be the cause of pain.

A lack of appropriate foot contact when walking can move the center of gravity too far to the side or backwards. This places stress on the ankle joint and leads to poor balance. If there is progressively worsening pain on the outside or front of the ankle when walking barefoot or on uneven ground, it could be related to poor foot interaction with the ground. Instability with each step indicates the inability to keep the center of mass in an appropriate pattern due to poor foot-to-ground interaction.

Knee and hip pain that is experienced during standing, walking, or running activities can be traced to poor foot contact. Excessive genu valgus is the diagnosis when the knee moves in towards the opposite knee during standing or walking activities. This repeated and extreme motion will stress the knee joint and lead to pain on the inside or front of the knee. Complaints of lateral hip pain or even low back pain can be traced to how poorly the foot is interacting with the ground. Repeated exposure to poor foot contact and knee movement can affect the position of the hip joint and subsequent pelvic motion during each step. Chronic hip pain, located on the side of the hip, buttock region, or even the inner thigh, that doesn’t respond to standard care at the joint level is very often traced to the foot.

So, if there’s pain in regions other than the foot, don’t be surprised when orthotics are the solution. A comprehensive examination and evaluation of symptoms may include a gait analysis. Improving how the foot interacts with the ground will benefit other parts of the body that don’t seem to be related to shoe inserts.

To schedule a physical therapy assessment to address foot or ankle pain, call (877) 56-REHAB.