If you’re dealing with chronic foot pain, wearing specially-made orthotics to help reduce those symptoms makes sense. After all, orthotics are designed to provide the extra support and cushioning your feet need to compensate for foot-related problems like arthritis, bunions, corns, and hammertoes, and they can also help correct problems with the way your foot moves when you walk, like turning your toes inward or outward too much or walking on the sides of your feet. Yes, wearing a custom-crafted shoe insert to improve any of these issues is a pretty clear-cut solution for foot pain and related symptoms.
But guess what? Custom orthotics from Washington Foot & Ankle Sports Medicine can do a lot more than relieve foot pain. As it turns out, they can relieve a lot of other types of pain too, including pain in your knees, your hips, and your back. Here’s how.
The foot-body connection: A domino effect
Most of us think of our feet more or less as moveable “anchors” that keep us steady as we walk, stand, run, or climb. But our feet do a lot more than support us and keep us stable. They provide support and stability to our entire bodies. And when something’s not quite right with our feet, we can quickly feel it in other areas, most commonly the leg muscles, knee joints, hips, and lower back.
Activities like standing and walking require us to keep our bodies in alignment, from our feet all the way up our spines. Since our feet provide the grounding point for the rest of the body, it’s easy to see how even a seemingly simple issue with one or both feet can work its way up to cause problems in other areas as well.
Think of it like this: When you stand, ideally you could draw a line straight down your shin bone to a spot between your first and second toe. Your body is designed to support your weight and help balance you when this line is intact. But if your foot is shaped differently or if you have an issue with the way you walk or stand, that line can shift, and that means the pressures and strains on the muscles, ligaments, tendons, and joints can be altered as well. For instance, if your foot tends to roll inward or outward when you walk, or if you have high or flat arches, the weight of your body (and the stresses exerted when you move) will be distributed unevenly, and that means extra strain on your knees, hips and back, all of which are involved in standing, walking and similar activities.
If your feet roll outward, for instance, that means your knees will be pushed inward. Excess inward pressure on your knee joints is transmitted upward to your hip joints, which will lean outward. Since your hips depend on nerves and muscles in your lower back, added strain in the hip joints travels up to your lower back. That means any of these areas can experience painful symptoms as a result of a “simple” problem emanating in your feet.
Custom orthotics: Improving your biomechanics
All this interconnectedness can be described by one term: biomechanics. Biomechanics refers to the ways your body reacts to support specific movements. If you have a problem with your feet, the biomechanics involved in walking and other activities can be affected significantly. Custom orthotics help improve your biomechanics by ensuring your feet have the “normal” support they need to keep your body properly aligned during movement (and even when you’re standing still).
It’s important to understand that it doesn’t take a “major” foot problem to cause pain and other symptoms in your legs and back. Lots of common issues can cause painful symptoms, including:
- bunions, bony growths on the side of your big toe (similar growths can form on the side of your little toe)
- nerve problems, including neuromas
- numbness, including numbness caused by diabetes
- plantar fasciitis, a painful condition along the bottom or side of your foot
- fallen or high arches
All these issues can cause poor posture and problems with gait mechanics, which in turn can lead to chronic pain.
Can custom orthotics help you?
At Washington Foot & Ankle Sports Medicine, we offer custom orthotics using the most advanced materials and design so you can get the care you need without sacrificing comfort or style. To learn more about custom orthotics and how they could help you relieve your chronic pain, book an appointment online today.