When I look back over my career, the first thing I recall is the people who have entrusted me to help them get better. The second thing that comes to mind is the personal experiences I’ve had that have made me better at what I do. Just call me Dr. Guinea Pig.
Nobody would call me a high octane individual. Sure I road bike, ski and snowboard and have even been known to hit a jump, but
never almost never, for an adrenalin rush. Moderate challenges suit me just fine. Still my genetics, aptitude and interests have led me into some problems. Fortunately for my patients, my resolve for solving my problems has broadened my ability to successfully manage theirs.
Low back pain? Whiplash? Those are easy. Been (hurt) there – done (corrected) that. Three simple paths to success as listed below with the added benefit of an empathetic doctor.
- Correct the vertebral subluxation complex; get the spinal stress corrected
- Decreased the tissue inflammation; work the discs and soft tissue into their ‘happy place’
- Follow up with preventive measures to keep it from happening again
That could be the end to my counsel, but stupid moves are not beneath me, but the hard ground usually is. When my children thought everything I did was “cool,” I demonstrated a ‘wheelie’ on my new mountain bike. Their eyes where as big as saucers as I traveled around on just the back wheel. Seems I forgot that when you finally do go back to both wheels, it’s important to straighten out the front wheel. That little crash did change things.
It terrified my children, and to this day, I’ve never seen any of them attempt that trick. It also sidelined me from running for the better part of a year. Worse yet, I couldn’t even walk more than three miles without pain. The PT was stymied and finally a chiropractor friend asked, “Have you tried orthotics?”
“No, I don’t have foot pain. The problem is in my hip.” Frankly, I was desperate and it does make sense to me that everything is connected, so I sprang for a pair of custom foot orthosis (AKA – orthotics). Even with my professional discount they were expensive, but immediately I realized they were the best investment I’d ever made.
After three days of break in, I went for a walk; three miles came and went…no pain. The next day I decided to go for a run, something I couldn’t do at all. One mile…no pain. Two miles…no pain. Okay, I learned that even when your hip pain is gone, lung capacity can still be a limitation. I’ve never had any pain in that hip since. The orthotics took the pressure off the joint and helped me re-establish proper muscle balance and joint motion.
Someday I’ll share my sad stories about how I discovered yoga, Kinesio Tape, cold laser, bodyweight exercise, kettlebells, metabolic detox, and wholefood nutrition, but for now I want to focus on orthotics.
The wheelie saga was in the mid 1990’s. We’ve come a long way since then. Let’s put things into a generational format so I can give you a helpful history regarding orthotics.
1G: Doctor would take a static cast of your foot, send it to a lab (or make them onsite). You would be presented a ridgedorthotic to put into your shoes. You would hate then because they were hard and expensive, but everybody, including you, had thrown in the towel and these were better than nothing.
2G: Doctor/PT/Others would take a weight baring mold of your foot, send it to a lab, you would be presented with a semi-ridged orthotic to put into your shoes. You thought they were expensive, but you loved them because they were pretty comfortable and pretty effective.
3G: Doctor has you walk you across a high-tech mat that is so sensitive the accumulated data from your steps can isolate individual bones and whole foot timing and function. The data is uploaded to the lab and within a week you are presented with orthotics that make you feel amazing. They are very comfortable as they are semi-ridged, but since they are made to correct evenminor variations in gait they also help you stabilize the lower extremity, improve your low back comfort, spinal balance and posture.
CAUTION: Don’t settle for anything but the latest generation of custom orthotics.
Amazingly, First and second generation orthotics are still being widely prescribed. They also are in the same price range. Expect to pay between $400 and $700 for any prescribed orthotics. A lot has to do with where you live and professional markup. For example: Our office is rural, (north of Seattle) and we fit custom orthotics sparingly, to help optimize and de-stress the skeletal system to improve our other work. We use the sophisticated Footmaxx Metascan (3G) but still provide them on the lower end of that price range.
If you’ve been reading carefully you probably noticed I said, “we fit custom orthotics sparingly.”
You might ask, “If they are so great, why not get everybody into them?” That is a good question.
The answer is simple. Custom orthotics are great. They are great just like glasses are great. If you’re not able to see things clearly then ideally you would try vision therapy and if that didn’t help, you get a pair of prescription glasses. To YOU they are “great!” you can see clearly. The same way we don’t put people with perfect vision into glasses, we should never put people with good foot function and ideal gait into orthotics.
Correcting structural stresses and neurological interference first is critical. Often a chiropractor can simply adjust the spine or align a bone in the lower extremity and the improved balance returns naturally. Sometimes manual therapeutic correction can be employed to re-balance things. First things should be done first, when those don’t suffice, then your provider should consider orthotics.
Proper assessment is critical; find a competent doctor, who understands how custom orthotics can be used to help your body perform at its best.