Orthotics are the medical name for braces, splints and supports that help correct and support the function of limbs. They are designed to guide, control and limit or immobilise joints that are injured, in rehabilitation, or suffering biomechanical problems. Orthotics can also be useful to distribute weight bearing forces more evenly across joints so as to alleviate pain.
Biomechanical problems affecting the feet can cause pain not just in the foot but in the lower limbs, knees, hip and even back. This happen by the feet becoming increasing stressed within the foot structures, is can also cause misalignment in the joints which increase pressure on other joints. Common biomechanical problems include:
- Flat feet
- Knee pain
- Bach pain
- Ball of foot pain
- Heel pain
- Achilles tendonitis
All of these pains can be helped with the use of orthotics.
Over the counter orthotics
For mild pain and for supports to aid in rehab you may be able to purchase over the counter orthotics, these can be bought in different sizes to suit all kind off individual. Orthotic insoles can be purchased in heat mouldable form which can be moulded to suit your foot with heat. Other items include supports for drop foot which can be purchased is a size to suit and fit around the ankle giving support when the foot is raised and improving gait.
Orthotic boots can be purchased from stores and provide help with weight distribution, support and realignment. They are built using lightweight carbon fibre materials and can be worn daily without too much discomfort.
For many biomechanical problems, before you go out and buy and off the shelf orthotic is wise to visit a podiatrist to have your problem assessed. It maybe that the best way to resolve your problem is to have custom made orthotics designed. These can specifically suit and fit the shape of your foot. Assessments are carried out to determine the problem and then casts are made of your feet to send away for a customised orthotic to be made. Wearing custom made designs can take a little getting used to and seem quite difficult and uncomfortable at first, but they can also take away any pain that is being caused by the problem immediately.
Kinds of orthotic devices
There are many kinds of orthotic aids available; these can be designed for paediatric cases or adults. The most commonly used are in shoe inserts, this because a lot of problems come for poor foot mechanics. Insoles are available for over pronation and supination (high arches). There also aids and orthotic device specifically for the knee, ankle, hip and back. Devices combining ankle and the foot are known as AFO`s they are designed to support the both ankle and foot in weight distribution and re-aligning. KAFO combines knee, ankle and foot and THKAFO combines trunk, hip, knee, ankle and foot. These are all geared towards support; realignment and improving the users gait to ensure pain free walking and the fixing of deformities.