Orthotics is a Medical Specialty within the NHS and Orthotists work with Orthopaedic Surgeons and Physiotherapists to provide a range of orthotic supports. These are used to help patients in NHS Trust Hospitals such as the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital (RNOH) where they are available to patients with problems arising from conditions including Diabetes, Rheumatoid Arthritis or a Scoliotic Spine and which are often complex.
Custom foot orthotics are widely available from other healthcare specialists such as Chiropractors and their use is mentioned in articles on respected websites such as this one on patient.co.uk about treatment of bunions or Hallux Valgus, where it is stated that Orthotics may provide relief and that:
“Correction of the biomechanical factors may prevent excessive pronation and progression of the deformity.”
What Are Custom Foot Orthotics?
Foot orthotics are designed to help to correct and support any abnormalities in the biomechanics of the foot and provide support for the heel and/or arch. They help with pronation of the foot and shock absorption.
There is a wide range of ‘over the counter’ foot orthotics products available from large pharmacies such as Boots as well as online. However, these have limitations and in the same way as an ‘off the peg’ suit will not fit as well as a tailored one, the difference between these over the counter products and custom orthotics is that the custom products are designed to fit your feet exactly.
Although many people try over the counter supports first, these are often not as successful as using custom-made products as the support is not in exactly the right place on the foot or is too big or too small.
Custom Orthotics are often referred to as arch supports and are designed to make daily activities such as standing, walking or running more comfortable and should only ever be prescribed after careful assessment of your problem and a gait analysis to identify your exact requirements.
What Are the Most Common Uses for Foot Orthotics?
Possibly the most common use for orthotics is to bring relief from foot pain, in particular heel or arch pain which so many people suffer from. In addition, foot orthotics are used by those suffering from knee pain from a variety of conditions, the most common of which are:
- Chondromalacia patellae (CMP) where the cartilage behind the knee becomes damaged through overuse causing pain at the front of the knee.
- Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS) where the ligament that runs from hip to shin and which attaches to the outside of the knee to help to stabilize the knee joint becomes irritated, inflamed and tight. This problem causes lateral knee pain and is particularly common in runners.
- Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (PFPS) is a condition commonly called “runners’ knee” and is caused by irritation between the kneecap and end of the thighbone. It is one of the most common causes of chronic knee pain in runners but can also affect walkers and cyclists.
Other conditions that orthotics are designed to help are bunions, chronic low back pain, flat feet, shin splints, feet that point in or out excessively when walking, frequent ankle sprains and problems causing shoes to wear on one side more quickly than the other.
A badly fitting, over the counter product may cause more harm than good so it is important to get correct advice on the right type of orthotic for your problem from the start.