The foot is a complex structure yet it is often taken for granted and generally ignored. The foot is designed to withstand a high magnitude of rotational and impact stresses, both from the ground below and the body above in order for us to walk effectively and efficiently. The foot is able to do this through biomechanics of the soft tissue to allow these stresses to be absorbed effectively.
Problems occur when an area of the foot is it not functioning ‘normally’ and the rest of the lower limb has to compensate by sometimes increasing or decreasing joint movement through stretching tendons, twisting joints or changing foot posture.
Overtime, these compensations can cause problems and discomfort in the foot and lower limb. A way that we can ascertain where the initial problem has arisen and how your lower limb is compensating is through a Biomechanical Assessment.
The aim of a Biomechanical Assessment is to ascertain, through observation and examination, the range of movement and alignment of each joint from the hips to the toes in order to develop a picture of how an individual’s lower body moves when standing, laying down and walking (gait). A joint that has a range of movement outside of the ‘normal’ parameters may indicate that it is compensating for another area in the lower limb. Alternatively, a tight tendon may indicate that an adjacent area is moving too much.
You will need to wear comfortable shorts and bring with you a selection of everyday footwear as your footwear will also be assessed for signs of wear patterns and creases which provide us with a good idea of how you walk every day.
An orthotic is a device which fits snugly into your footwear. They are prescribed in order to improve foot function and increase the efficiency of the way you walk (gait). They may be of assistance in the treatment of lower limb and joint pain associated with sports injuries, mal-alignment problems and bony deformity. They work by either re-aligning your foot posture, cushioning, or re-distributing pressure away from tender areas.
Orthotic is can be individually made to your own personal prescription, or be bought 'off the shelf'. Following a biomechanical assessment and in the majority of cases where orthotics have been dispensed, your symptoms should gradually reduce over 4 – 6 weeks.
Some foot orthoses support the bones that form the inner arch, and this is why the term arch support is often used to describe these devices. They may also alter the position of the foot when walking, therefore you may notice a feeling of walking differently, with minor aches and pains in the lower limb, but after a few days use these should all reduce. However, if you experience pain or extreme discomfort, discontinue use immediately and contact us.
Your devices should ideally be worn in a lace-up or enclosed shoe with sufficient depth to comfortably accommodate both device and foot. They will also transfer from shoe to shoe provided that the internal dimensions of the shoe are not greatly different. But if you encounter an accommodation problem try a shoe one half size larger than normal. Alternatively try a different style. Always check your feet for signs of rubbing as this might indicate that minor adjustments are required.
Whilst devices are only prescribed in those cases where it is considered that they will be useful, a successful outcome cannot always be guaranteed.
Our Practice Biomechanics specialist is Sarah Sharman. If you require a Biomechanical Assessment or general advice with regard to Biomechanical issues and/or orthotics, then call the surgery and request a Biomechanical Assessment appointment with Sarah.