Everybody recognizes it, even if they’ve never had it. You can’t turn around these days without seeing an article or product to treat this dreaded condition. What is worse is actually suffering from it. Who do you listen to? Who do you believe? For us a day doesn’t go by without having to treat someone who has painful heels but where did it come from? I had a client who came to me with a referral for Orthotics to treat plantar fasciitis. As usual we go through a detailed history and examination of the feet. We tend to treat these conditions like 500 piece jig saw puzzles. Each piece we collect sheds more light on the how and why of the problem and what to do to help you get through it. This man had seen his Doctor after 3-4 weeks of hobbling around with a painful right heel. By the time he saw his Physician the left heel was starting to bother him too. He was referred to Physiotherapy where he received treatment, a stretching program and some helpful things that he could do at home to help ease the pain. Fortunately the Physiotherapist recognized that the underlying problem was a mechanical one and that Orthotics could probably help. In talking to this fellow, he had a long tale of all the useful advice he received before he finally saw his Doctor. Heat, cold, bedrest, gel heel pads, readymade “arch supports” and on and on.
I’m a firm believer in the old adage “communication is a two-way street.” When I started working as a Pedorthist in 1997, I learned very quickly the importance of clearly communicating to my patients when one of my patients, who came into my clinic with a prescription for custom-made orthotics, asked if orthotics were special shoes.
Although Pedorthists are trained to clearly explain their assessment and treatment plan, as a patient, it is equally important you tell your Pedorthist if you don’t fully understand something. Before you leave their clinic, make sure you completely understand the reasons behind your pain or mobility problems, how pedorthic treatment will help and what you have to do to make it successful.
I am constantly surprised by how much controversy there is about the usefulness of foot orthotics. Unfortunately, people often do not discriminate between ready made and custom molded devices. Foot orthotics also require some commitment and discipline on the part of the wearer. The analogy I use most often is that they are much like eyeglasses except you have to walk on them. In this respect they work when you wear them and like glasses must be worn as much as possible to provide correction.