When should orthotics be used for treatment?
The whole concept of orthotics can be confusing and difficult to understand. To have the appropriate skills for treatment using orthotics takes significant training and experience which is why a Podiatrist is the best practitioner to prescribe custom foot orthotics. Podiatrists undergo high level training in biomechanics and foot pathologies in order to have the knowledge on how/when to prescribe orthotics. Currently there are many types and styles of orthotics which can make choosing a correct device very difficult for the general population. When choosing a device it is important to ask yourself one simple question. What am I trying to achieve with an orthotic?
Podiatrists know that offloading a specific tissue with an orthotic reduces the stresses placed upon that tissue therefore giving it time to rest and heal. If orthotics are used in the correct manner, they can be very effective in the treatment of many lower limb conditions.
In most cases people use orthotics to help treat a condition or pain. Others will wear orthotics to try and correct foot posture (correcting flat feet). Both have been common practice for a long time. New models of treatment within the Podiatry profession focus more on the 1st point rather than the 2nd. This model concentrates on treating the foot when it is injured or in pain rather than just to correct foot posture. Correcting foot posture does not necessarily prevent an injury. There is a saying that fits for this particular situation perfectly – Why fix something that isn’t broken?
When the foot is flat (rolls in) it will predispose a person to certain types of injuries just as having a high arch (rolls out) foot does. Therefore correcting a foot before it is injured will not necessarily prevent a future injury. Preventative orthotic therapy does have a place in Podiatry and in most cases is used to prevent a previous injury from reoccurring. A good example of preventative orthotic therapy is to stabilise the foot and ankle to prevent ankle sprains in a person with chronic ankle instability.