How about those who have already met their deductibles? Now that your health care is basically on sale for the rest of the year, it makes sense to think really carefully about any symptoms you may be experiencing, and make an effort to address them before that deductible comes roaring back.
If you’re one of those people reaching the “use it or lose it” point for your FSA fund or insurance coverage as the calendar year comes to a close, we have a humble suggestion. Custom orthotics are one of the most versatile tools we have available to both prevent and treat a wide variety of foot, ankle, and even leg, hip, and back pain conditions.
They’re relatively affordable anyway, especially considering the value they provide. But with FSA funds or post-deductible discounts to apply, getting fitted for a new pair (or replacing an old pair) might be an absolute no-brainer for anyone currently suffering from foot, ankle, or musculoskeletal pain.
Maybe you remember the old children’s song about Ezekiel—“ankle bone’s connected to the foot bone,” etc. The anatomy is simplified, granted, but it illustrates an important point—your body is one long connected chain, and what happens in one area affects all the others.
This is especially true with the feet, since they are the foundation upon which everything else is built. If your feet are structurally compromised, misaligned, or causing you to develop an abnormal gait pattern, your feet are probably going to start hurting. But on top of that, other joints all the way up your legs and back may also start to feel the strain as they attempt to compensate for the lack of proper support beneath them.
Just think of how an unsteady home foundation can lead to sticking windows or cracks in the ceiling, and you’ll get the idea.
Orthotics are the solution to that problem—or at least the solution that doesn’t require an entire surgical reconstruction of your feet and ankles!
These devices replace the default insoles in your shoes, and are built to address the specific underlying imbalances and misalignments your feet are experiencing. This allows you to stand, walk, run, and jump more efficiently and comfortably, and also can relieve pain and stress throughout your standing skeletal system.
Orthotics come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and materials in order to address the specific needs of the individual. Maybe you need rigid or semi-rigid functional orthotics made from plastic, graphite, or carbon fiber in order to control irregular motion and keep your feet aligned. Or maybe you just need softer accommodative orthotics made from cushioned materials to relieve the painful pressure of arthritis or bunions, or reduce the risk of a diabetic ulcer. Either way, your podiatrist can help you make that determination.
But the bottom line is that if you have any kind of foot or ankle pain, with or without associated leg or back pain, there is a great chance that the right pair of orthotics can help you. We prescribe orthotics for all sorts of conditions, including heel pain, tendinitis, flat feet, stress fractures, bunions, diabetic ulcer prevention, and so many more.
But Why CUSTOM Orthotics?
Now, we’d venture a guess that you’ve probably walked past displays filled with cushioned insoles and arch supports at your local pharmacy and sort of shrugged your shoulders. Maybe you’ve even tried a few pairs with mixed success.
So you might be thinking, “Why should I schedule a doctor’s appointment and get a fancy pair of custom orthotics when I could just buy a $15 pair of arch supports at Walmart?”
Well, a couple reasons. Here are a few of the big ones.
First, custom orthotics are a world apart from over-the-counter arch supports. If you need a comparison, think about the difference between a cheap pair of reading glasses versus prescription eyewear.
If your vision is still pretty good and you just need a little help focusing on text at close distances or in dim light, a pair of readers might be totally appropriate. But more serious or complicated vision problems are absolutely going to need prescription eyewear.
The same is true of orthotics. A few minor aches and pains? Sure, try some cheap arch supports and see if they help. Maybe they will! But they are not going to correct the major biomechanical flaws that are at the root of more serious foot, ankle, and musculoskeletal pain.
Custom orthotics are, as the name suggests, custom-built based on your specific measurements. We’ll perform a full and thorough examination of your foot structure and any symptoms you’re having—perhaps using our in-house pedCAT weight-bearing 3D CT scanner. We’ll make a mold of your feet, too. That all gets sent to the lab, where the perfect set of orthotics for you—with just the right materials and features—are fabricated.
As you can imagine, the level of precision, detail, and customization means that custom orthotics can provide much more effective support and performance, especially when your symptoms go beyond the most basic and minor.
That said, if we think prefabricated orthotics can help you, we’re happy to suggest you try that first.
First: Good for you! We hope they’re really helping and you’re enjoying an active, pain-free life.
Second: When is the last time you had them checked by a professional? If it’s been more than a year, you might want to bring ‘em in for a checkup before your FSA funds disappear or deductible reappears.
Certainly, one of the virtues of custom orthotics is that they do tend to last a long time—in some cases many years if they’re well cared for. But that doesn’t mean they’re invincible or that they’ll never need to be adjusted or replaced.
Just like a car or bicycle, a yearly inspection and “tune-up” can help us keep your orthotics in top shape, so they work better and last longer. And if and when they do finally need to be replaced, we’ll help you get a new set.
How do you know if your orthotics may need to be adjusted, refurbished, or replaced? Here are a few things to watch out for:
- Has my pain returned? This is a pretty obvious sign that something probably needs to be fixed. The appearance of things like blisters, corns, or calluses—whether painful or not—would also be a pretty solid indication.
- Are there visible signs of wear or damage? Again, pretty obvious. Cracks, broken pieces, or significant wear will compromise the effectiveness of the orthotics.
- Has my lifestyle changed? This could go in either direction. Maybe you’re wearing your orthotics for a lot more high-stress activities, like sports or running. Or maybe you’ve had a recent surgery, pregnancy, or arthritis that has changed the way you walk. Your orthotics may need to be tuned to better fit these changes.
- Have my feet changed? Feet do slowly change shape over a lifetime, becoming wider and flatter due to wear, tear, and changes in the strength and elasticity of supporting tissues. This may necessitate an adjustment to your orthotics.
Don’t Let the Clock Run Out!
If your feet are hurting, or you have a problem that you believe orthotics may be able to address, don’t wait for the new year to reset! Schedule an appointment and come see us. We will make sure you get the care you need.
We have six conveniently located offices throughout the Olympia area, but you can just give us a call at (360) 754-3338 and we’ll help you find a time and location that works well for your needs. Or, you could fill out our online contact form, and someone from our office will connect with you shortly.