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Your Foot Bone is Connected to Your Leg Bone…

Have you ever wondered how far you will walk in your life? Well, the average person walks 176,640 km in their lifetime. More surprising is that over 75% of the population will suffer from foot related ailments.

For some, foot problems will be minor annoyances. For others, foot problems will mean weeks, months or years of pain and discomfort. For professional and amateur athletes, performance will be severely affected by these problems.

Equally important, because of the foot’s critical role in how the body functions, problems with foot mechanics can lead to many of the most common foot, ankle, knee, hip and lower back ailments.

At the basis of most foot-related problems is a simple fact: the foot is under constant stress from the body’s weight as we stand, walk, run, climb, golf, ski, skate or do any number of other activities on our feet.

As you walk or run, your entire body weight lands on your feet at a pressure of up to 5 times your own body weight, and to the tune of 15,000 times a day. With your feet under such high demands while establishing the base of support for your body, even minor variances in normal foot mechanics can impact numerous joints and tissues within the kinetic chain.

Even more so than the general population, those with diabetes and arthritis need to take extra precautions when it comes to foot care as there can be several foot complications associated with these diseases. Those suffering with arthritis often comment that their feet will burn as though they are “dancing on coals.” This is due to the inflammation of the joints associated with arthritis and is compounded by poor foot mechanics.

Even more so than the general population, those with diabetes and arthritis need to take extra precautions when it comes to foot care as there can be several foot complications associated with these diseases. Those suffering with arthritis often comment that their feet will burn as though they are “dancing on coals.” This is due to the inflammation of the joints associated with arthritis and is compounded by poor foot mechanics.

Joint swelling combined with poor biomechanics can lead to severe repercussions to the health of arthritic feet including pain, bunions, hammer toes and potential surgery. For those suffering from diabetes, the major concern is poor circulation in the feet, which often result in ulcers, infection, and potential surgery.

Essential to healthy feet are good biomechanics, alignment and function. This implies that the foot is moving correctly when we are standing, walking or running. Altered biomechanics will cause poor weight distribution along the bottom of the foot, resulting in one or more areas of the foot bearing abnormally high pressure.

The result of faulty foot mechanics can be pain (at numerous sites), skin irritation, postural fatigue or even a lack of balance. Similar to the use of eyeglasses for correcting vision, researchers have developed foot orthotics for the correction of foot mechanics. In fact, orthotics are the second most prescribed correctional device, second only to eyeglasses.

One of the most common reasons for the prescription and use of an orthotic insert is the desire to correct a developing injury or to avoid a typical movement that is related to injury. Several studies have reported successful interventions with orthotics in sport activities. The literature reports that between 70% and 80% of foot and leg conditions respond positively to treatment. In a study conducted on runners with knee injuries, 78% were able to return to their previous running program with the use of orthotic therapy.

In another study of 347 runners and walkers, orthotics were used to correct foot dysfunction. Of the total subjects, (31.1%) were diagnosed with pronation (flat foot), plantar fasciitis (20.7%), Achilles tendonitis (18.5%), leg length discrepancy (13.5%), patello-femoral conditions (knee pain) (12.6%), and shin splints (7.2%). Of all the respondents, 76% reported complete or substantial improvement in symptoms due to the orthotics. Orthotics accomplish this in part by controlling excessive motion in the arch of the foot to maintain a stable base of support and reduce stresses placed on the lower body.

In summary, the feet are under great stress while supporting the body. This results in a large number of the population suffering from foot problems or injuries associated with poor foot mechanics. These problems are often amplified in individuals with underlying conditions such as arthritis and diabetes or in those who demand a great deal from their feet at work or from personal activities.

Proper biomechanics are essential to optimize function and reduce the stresses placed on the foot. Orthotic Therapy has proven to accomplish this by optimizing foot performance, ultimately reducing stress and injuries to the lower extremity.

If you are suffering from any of the above-mentioned conditions or have been battling with a pain that has eluded your practitioners’ diagnosis, keep in mind the title of this article…”The foot bone is connected to the…” Orthotic Therapy may be the answer you have been looking for to help you continue enjoying the wonderful array of activities available here in the Okanagan Valley.

References:

D’Ambrosia, R. D. Orthotic Devices in Running Injuries. Clin Sports Med. 4:611-618, 1995.

Gross, M. L., Davlin L. B. Treatment of Lower Extremity Injuries with Orthotic Shoe Inserts. Sports Medicine. 15:66-70, 1993.

Leung, A.K., A.F. Mak, A. F. Biomedical Gait Evaluation of the Effect of Orthotic Treatment for Flexible Flat Foot. Prosthet. Orthotics Int. 22:25-34, 1998.

Nigg B. M. Shoe inserts and Orthotics for Sports and Physical Activities. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 7:23-25, 1999.

Novick, A., Kelly D.L. Position and Movement Changes of the Foot with Orthotic Intervention During the Loading response of Gait. Clinical Biomechanics. 21:308-312, 1997.

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