February 22, 2012
Good spinal health is built from the ground up, starting with the feet. For years medical researchers and healthcare providers have recognized that problems there can cause posture changes that eventually trigger a variety of musculoskeletal issues in other parts of the body (particularly the ankle, knee, hip and back). Studies have also shown that even slight foot problems can negatively affect athletes’ performance and predispose them to a broad range of sports-related injuries.
How Can Orthotics Help?
Orthotics are shoe inserts that are specially designed and manufactured to correct an abnormal or irregular walking pattern by promoting proper alignment and balance. They’ve improved the quality of life for millions of people, and it’s become very common for physicians to recommend them to address many different patient needs:
- Reducing pain and/or fatigue
- Providing targeted foot support
- Relieving pressure or stress on an injured or sensitive area
- Preventing or limiting deformity
- Improving foot positioning and function
- Restoring balance
- Reinforcing or supplementing other therapies (particularly chiropractic adjustments)
Foot orthotics are medical devices that can significantly change the way a person stands, walks and runs (and therefore the way his or her body absorbs and distributes related forces). For this reason, it’s important that the person wearing them clearly understand their benefits, risks and limitations. It’s also important that the person use them correctly.
What Every Patient Should Know About Orthotics
1. There is no “one-size-fits-all” answer when it comes to orthotics. What works for another family member or neighbor will probably not work for you! Getting the right prescription for your particular needs is all about working effectively with your healthcare provider to define your own goals and develop a complete understanding of your foot’s unique structure and function. For instance, orthotics can be very sport-specific—the performance requirements of a hiker will not be the same as those of a skier or a football player.
2. Not all orthotics are created equal, and the differences matter. The prefabricated orthotics that can be purchased at shoe stores, pharmacies and sporting goods stores are not the same as the custom orthotics prescribed by a healthcare provider. Do not confuse them! Mass-produced products are tailored for the “typical” foot and are unlikely to address problems specific to any one individual’s foot. In some situations, such products can actually make a medical condition worse, cause new problems or increase the risk of injury. So while they’re usually less expensive than custom orthotics, they may not actually solve your particular problem.
3. Orthotics don’t actually correct foot or ankle problems. They are intended to realign the structures of the foot to improve function, reduce pain and decrease the risk of injury.
4. Needs can change over time and your orthotics should too. The structure and function of the foot can change as people age. So too can people’s lifestyle and priorities. Your healthcare provider can work with you to ensure that your prescription is still the right one for you.
5. Long-term use of orthotics may pose its own risks. Any time that you provide outside help to the structures normally responsible for supporting and moving parts of your body (casts or braces are good examples), you are essentially asking them to do less. And if you provide that help over a sufficiently extended period, you run the risk that your bones, muscles and connective tissues may become weaker as a result. The unintended consequence is that you may actually become less capable and more reliant on your devices to do the work your body used to do. Your healthcare provider will talk with you about how to use your orthotics correctly and manage any long-term risk that he or she believes may exist.
6. Prescribing orthotics is arguably as much an art as a science. Don’t underestimate the role of professional judgment in prescribing orthotics. Experts acknowledge that there are few widely-accepted standards and that we can’t always predict successfully how an individual will respond to a particular prescription. In fact, recent research has demonstrated that individuals with the same condition can respond very differently to identical orthotic therapy. There’s even evidence that the same patient can respond to a prescription inconsistently or can respond just as favorably to two entirely different (even contrary) prescriptions. This means that some trial and error may be necessary to get the results both you and your healthcare provider are looking for and that good communication is critical. Without accurate and timely feedback from you about how well your orthotics are doing their job, it’s impossible for your healthcare provider to make the adjustments that will eventually lead to success.
How Your Local Chiropractor Can Help
There’s a close relationship between the way your feet work and the way the rest of your musculoskeletal system supports your body. So even if your feet themselves don’t actually hurt, they could be contributing to other health problems that you’re experiencing. After your local Fremont chiropractor has examined you carefully and talked with you about your situation, he or she can help you decide whether foot orthotics should be part of your broader treatment plan. Call our office today at (510) 797-4796 to learn more.
References and Resources
Gina Kolata, Close Look at Orthotics Raises a Welter of Doubts. Orthotic Shoe Inserts May Work, but It’s Not Clear Why. New York Times Fitness and Nutrition. January 17, 2011. Accessed August 2011.
Nigg, BM et. al., Effect of Shoe Inserts on Kinematics, Center of Pressure, and Leg Joint Movements During Running. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. February 2003. Accessed August 2011.
Best Foot Forward with Chiropractic. Journal of the American Chiropractic Association. January 2001. Accessed August 2011.
February 8, 2012
Your Child’s Health: Having the Right Backpack and Using It Correctly Now May Prevent Big Problems Later
Healthcare researchers and providers alike are growing increasingly concerned that American kids are suffering from back pain earlier in their lives and in larger numbers than ever before. And experts closest to the problem believe that overweight, improperly designed, and misused backpacks may be a big part of the reason why.
Short-Term Injuries and Longer-Term Concerns
With an estimated 40 million school-age children carrying backpacks in America, it’s not surprising that there are some book bag-related injuries every year. Since 2000, the U.S. Product Safety Commission has reported that children and their backpacks make roughly 7,000 trips to the emergency room annually. However, many observers believe that the real toll is actually far higher since the vast majority of such injuries go unreported and many kids are treated by a family doctor or not treated at all.
While it is not clear how many acute injuries actually result from wearing backpacks as opposed to tripping over them or being hit by them, doctors who treat back problems regularly—especially chiropractic physicians—see worrying signs that heavier backpacks are setting the stage for more serious health issues in the future, including chronic back, neck and shoulder pain. Some chiropractors estimate that as many as 75% to 80% of the teenage patients they treat have postural problems directly related to overweight backpacks.
Why the Heavier Bags?
Across the past ten years, several factors have come together to increase the amount of weight young students are carrying in their book bags:
The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons recommends that a backpack should not be any heavier than 15% of a child’s body weight. But as early as 2001, researchers at Simmons College in Massachusetts found that 55% of the 345 children they studied were carrying backpacks that exceeded the recommended weight limit, often by a substantial amount. One third of those students said that they had already experienced back pain. Today, the American Chiropractic Association advises parents to limit the weight of a child’s backpack to no more than 5% to 10% of body weight.
If you see any of the following signs, it may be time to lighten the load, help your child choose a different backpack or talk about how it’s being used.
Choosing the Right Backpack and Using it Correctly
A good quality backpack with proper ergonomic features doesn’t have to be expensive. They’re available at many sporting goods stores and discount outlets. Experts offer the following advice:
Once your child has the right bag, it’s just as important to encourage him or her to use it correctly. Chiropractors and physical therapists generally agree that means wearing it on both shoulders with the straps tightened so that it hangs no more than four inches below the waist.
How Your Fremont Chiropractor Can Help
Using a backpack should not cause any pain or discomfort under normal circumstances. If your child is showing signs of back, neck or should pain, we encourage you to call your chiropractic physician today. In addition to addressing any current problems that your child may be experiencing, your doctor of chiropractic can recommend an exercise program designed to strengthen muscles, and improve posture and coordination. He or she can also offer instruction about good nutrition and sleep habits that will support your child’s healthy development.
Doctors Give Advice to Parents on Selecting a Good Backpack for Their Children. Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. August 3, 2011. Accessed August 2011.
ACA Offers Backpack Safety Checklist. American Chiropractic Association. August 28, 2007. Accessed August 2011.
Protect Young Backs From Too Much Weight: Heavy Backpacks Cause Variety of Health Problems. NBC Home/Education. Accessed August 2011.
< href="http://articles.cnn.com/2007-09-10/health/hm.backpack.pain_1_backpack-heaviest-items-book-bags?_s=PM:HEALTH">Avoid School Strain: Unstuff that BackPack. CNN Health. September 10, 2007. Accessed August 2011.
The Effect of Backpacks on the Lumbar Spine in Children: A Standing Magnetic Resonance Imaging Study. Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2010 Jan 1;35(1):83-8. Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, University of California, San Diego, CA. Neuschwander, et. al. Accessed August 2011.