How to Make Arch Supports That Relieve Pain
From reading the blogs and forums it is clear that there is a lot of confusion and frustration about arch supports. It is no wonder considering every ad you read says that their arch support will clear up everything from foot pain to acne. I have also read that many people spend a ton of money on arch supports only to find out they do not work at all. There really is no magic about arch supports and once you understand how and why they work you will understand that if the arch supports correct the problem they will likely relieve the pain.
In addition to being a family doctor I am also a biomechanical engineer. The biomechanics of the foot is particularly fascinating to me. The foot consists of 26 bones, 33 joints and over 100 muscles, tendons and ligaments. The proper functioning of the foot depends upon the precise coordination of all these components. The foot must support your body weight in perfect balance just to enable you to stand. Imagine the forces on the foot when you walk or run.
As you walk the bones of the mid-foot, commonly referred to as the arch of the foot, will unlock and allow the arch to flatten-out. The unlocking of the mid-foot allows the foot to absorb shock and to adapt to the different surfaces you are walking on. As you go further in the step the bones of the mid-foot relock to reform the arch. This relocking of the mid-foot allows the foot to become a firm lever arm for efficient push-off to propel you forward. This unlocking and relocking of the bones of the mid-foot are essential for efficient foot function. It is malfunction of this locking and unlocking mechanism that causes many common foot problems.
There are basically two types of foot problems that most people experience. They either have a mid-foot that is always unlocked resulting in a flat arch that doesn’t support the body very well or they have a mid-foot that is always locked resulting in a high arch that doesn’t absorb shock very well. The person with a flat, unlocked foot will typically complain of heel pain (plantar fasciitis), pain in the arch, ankle pain, pain in the front of the lower leg (shin splints) and tired achy calf muscles at the end of the day. The person with the locked, high arched foot will have pain on the top of the foot, pain on the outside part of the foot, be more prone to ankle sprains and very often have knee and hip pain as a result of the locked foot that does not absorb shock very well.
In either of these cases, the flat foot or high arched foot, it is critical that the arch support is manufactured with an impression or cast of the foot while the foot is in what is called “the neutral position”. The neutral position is when the foot, ankle and knee joint are in alignment. When the arch support is made while the foot is in the neutral position it will keep the foot in this neutral position throughout the step. This allows the foot to absorb shock as you walk, evenly distribute the weight in the foot and allow the foot to act as a firm efficient lever arm when you push-off of the ground and propel yourself forward.
Making an impression or cast of the foot in neutral position is easy when the patient is in the office and the technician or physician is making the cast or impression of the foot. When arch supports are made using a foam impression that is sent to the patient after ordering online, they must be provided with clear, simple instructions on how to make the impression with the foot in the neutral position. If made properly, the arch support can be extremely effective at relieving foot pain, knee pain, hip pain and low back pain.
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