Custom orthotics can be a very useful and versatile tool for many patients. They are a foundational element of many treatment plans, and much of the reason why comes down to structure.
Many sources of chronic pain and other problems can be traced to abnormalities in the structure of the foot. These can affect the ways that weight and other forces are distributed as we stand and move. This, in turn, can place excess stress in certain areas, affect the way our lower limbs move as we walk, and create instability.
Orthotics can counter these conditions in different ways, providing comfort and support in the exact amounts they are needed. They are not the answer to every problem that comes through our door, but many of our patients have benefitted from them—ranging from children to elders.
What conditions might custom orthotics benefit at different points in life? Here are a few possibilities for a few different ages.
Children: Growing into Trouble
If you have a child, we don’t need to tell you: their feet grow fast. Soft, pudgy baby feet start to form the arches that support our weight and movement. As we start ambling about, we fine-tune the motor skills necessary to get around effectively.
As they grow, children may exhibit signs of flat feet or fallen arches. In most cases, this is an example of “flexible flatfoot” and will often resolve itself as a child’s arches further develop and grow permanent. Orthotics may not have as consistent of an effect at this point—both because of the flexible nature of a kids’ feet and the fact that they’re growing so quickly!
If a child shows signs of flat feet or another structural abnormality, however, the condition should be regularly monitored to ensure it is resolving itself naturally and not causing any problems. Most children fully develop their arches by the age of 6, but this does not always happen.
A minor percentage of kids maintain their flat feet into adulthood, but even then this is often not enough reason to prescribe them orthotics. Only if the condition is causing pain or other symptoms should such treatment be considered.
Adulthood: The Daily Grind
When you reach adulthood and middle age, you are often spending a lot of time on your feet one way or another. Perhaps you have a job that dictates hours of standing or walking, such as teaching or factory work. Or perhaps you take time outside of your desk job to hit the trails running.
At this point in life, a number of reasons may occur that may require orthotics. Just a few examples include:
- Flat feet or another structural issue from your childhood is now causing you pain, perhaps due to changes in weight or activity levels.
- You did not have flat feet as a child, but your arches have fallen now due to conditions such as posterior tibial tendon dysfunction (PTTD) or arthritis.
- You have suffered an injury to ligaments or other soft tissues in the foot that affect your gait, foot structure, or ability to support your weight normally.
Custom orthotics can be a very effective tool for such circumstances. They might be used as part of an independent plan, or as part of a multi-faceted plan that includes other treatments. Additional treatments may include:
- Stretches and exercises to strengthen supporting muscles and tissues.
- Laser treatment to relieve pain and accelerate healing.
- Anti-inflammatory medications.
A successful plan will significantly reduce or completely eliminate your discomfort, but that doesn’t mean you can plow ahead and continue behaviors that may have contributed to your problem in the first place. This may mean making changes to your workout plans (such as reducing intensity or incorporating cross-training) or making changes to your work environment (resting further during break times or placing cushioned mats at places you stand for long times).
Senior Years: Mobility, Comfort, and Independence
As we age, the problems from middle age can still be prevalent. However, problems with instability and mobility tend to be more prevalent during this period.
Custom orthotics can effectively provide support for ankle instability, lowering the risks of falls when used correctly. Orthotics may incorporate or be used in addition to braces for this purpose.
Orthotics can also be used to address discomfort from chronic deformities such as bunions, providing effective management when surgery is not considered a viable option. They can also be used to take additional pressure off problem areas such as sores and diabetic wounds.
The more that custom orthotics can provide comfort and keep patients moving, the more likely they can lead independent lives free of complications. While these concerns tend to be more common in older patients, by no means are they restricted from younger adults and children, when needed.
A Confident, Comfortable Future
No matter what stage of life you or your family is in, the best time to start addressing chronic issues is right now. The longer matters go unaddressed, the more time is lost to pain and the more likely complications can develop.
Dr. Mark Gasparini, Dr. Novneet Chhabra, and the staff of Foot Specialists of Long Island are here to help patients of all ages find the comfort and stability they need, whether solutions come in the form of custom orthotics or other effective treatments.
Schedule an appointment at our office in Massapequa by calling (516) 804-9038. If you prefer to contact us electronically, fill out our online form and a member of our office will reach out to you.