Your feet play an important role in your overall health—they serve as a strong base to your body when you’re standing and walking. However, at times, your feet and body may benefit from extra support by wearing custom orthotics. An orthosis is an externally applied device that is designed and fitted to the body that can help1:
- Control biomechanical alignment
- Correct or accommodate deformity
- Protect and support an injury
- Assist in rehabilitation
- Reduce pain
- Increase mobility
There are varieties of prefabricated and custom-made orthoses that can help manage a number of MSK problems. Commonly, we understand that orthotics can provide arch support and realign the structures of the foot and leg, as well as prevent muscle and tendon fatigue. Orthotics may also be used to correct structural deformities2.
Chiropractors are trained to assess if and when custom orthotics may benefit a patient. As part of the assessment, a chiropractor’s evaluation may include observation, gait analysis, functional analysis and neurological and orthopedic testing among others. This will help the chiropractor determine if custom orthotics are appropriate for a patient. In some cases, off-the-shelf orthotics may be best suited to meet the needs and goals of the patient. However, in cases where structural deformities exist and correction may be required, chiropractors will typically refer to a colleague, like a podiatrist, to co-manage the condition.
Chiropractors consider the body as a whole. For example, when assessing knee pain they will also look at the function of the back, hip, ankle and foot. Interestingly, patients who benefit the most from orthotics may not present with only foot pain, but rather pain in the ankle, knee, hip or low back, and a comprehensive look at all these biomechanics are reflected in chiropractic training3.
The underlying problem doesn’t always stem from the source of pain—a foot dysfunction (e.g., over pronation) can cause pain in other parts of the body. The value of chiropractic training in the field of orthotics, when considering all therapeutic options, involves assessing the entire lower kinetic chain for patients presenting with non-foot pain.
1 The Australian Orthotic Prosthetic Association, “About Orthoses and Prostheses,” https://www.aopa.org.au/careers/what-are-orthoses-and-prostheses. 2 Sun Life Financial, “Understanding Orthotics and Orthopedic Shoes,” https://www.uoguelph.ca/hr/system/files/Understanding%20orthotics%20and%20orthopaedic%20shoes.pdf. 3 Sun Life Financial, “Understanding Orthotics and Orthopedic Shoes,” https://www.uoguelph.ca/hr/system/files/Understanding%20orthotics%20and%20orthopaedic%20shoes.pdf.