Are your parents somewhat sedentary? Is their balance poor? Do they complain of unexplained pain in their hips, backs, or knees, unrelated to injury or disease? The source of discomfort could be their feet! Here are five ways orthotics can enhance your parents’ mobility.
Orthotics Provide a Stable Foundation
Orthotics are medical devices worn within shoes, with wide-ranging benefits. Unlike store-bought shoe inserts, prescription orthotics are precisely crafted by a foot and ankle specialist, tailored to a person’s needs. Also termed “foot orthoses,” these appliances:
- align the feet and ankles
- absorb shock
- distribute weight through the feet
- reduce joint and soft tissue pain
- correct abnormal walking patterns
- cushion foot structures
- provide weight-bearing stability and support
- prevent worsening foot deformity
- improve muscle function
Here are five benefits of custom orthotics for older adults.
1. Lessen fall risk.
The danger of falling increases with age, partly from declining muscle strength, balance, and sensation. Depending on your parents’ health, balance can be further compromised by ankle instability, nerve damage, foot pain, toe deformities, and poor posture.
Foot orthoses lower the risk of traumatic falls by improving balance and postural stability. A 2012 study evaluated the effect of orthotics on balance in seniors. At study onset, all the participants demonstrated poor balance and reported at least one fall during the prior year. After receiving orthotics, all the subjects performed better on balance tests.
Foot orthoses also improve postural control by heightening sensory feedback from the feet to the brain. This input enhances proprioception, the ability to sense your body and limb position without visual assistance. A 2014 study cited in Clinical Biomechanics found that older adults wearing ankle-foot orthoses had better postural stability and coordination, with eyes both open and closed.
2. Relieve foot discomfort.
Custom orthotics reduce various types of foot pain affecting older adults. Some of the most common are:
Bunions – Your mom may be subject to this foot deformity. A bunion is enlargement of the big toe joint, causing swelling, redness, and pain. The big toe acquires a pronounced bump and angles inward, toward the other toes.
Fat Pad Atrophy – With age, the fatty tissue beneath the foot bones becomes thin. With less protective cushioning, the feet are more vulnerable to stress forces, resulting in pain with weight-bearing and possible callus formation.
Flat Feet – Also called “fallen arches,” this condition causes inner foot roll or “pronation.” Pain can arise in the feet, inner ankles, arches, calves, and lower legs. Foot swelling and stiffness may also be present.
Plantar Fasciitis – This is inflammation of the plantar fascia, the thick band of fibrous tissue on the bottom of the foot, connecting the heel to the toes. The telltale symptom is sharp heel pain upon getting out of bed or after prolonged sitting, standing, and exercise. Typically, the pain subsides with walking.
Heel Spur – A complication of plantar fasciitis, this is a bony protrusion beneath the heel bone, causing localized pain.
3. Ease hip, knee, and back pain.
The feet have a direct relationship to other weight-bearing joints. Fallen arches stress the knees. This impact increases if your parents have osteoarthritis. Thinning knee cartilage brings bones into closer proximity. The resulting friction triggers joint pain and inflammation.
When the feet pronate, the knees internally rotate, causing stress to the hips. Then, pain in the knees and hips leads to irregular walking patterns. Other conditions that impair ambulation are bunions, plantar fasciitis, and heel spurs. Additionally, fallen arches and misaligned hips destabilize the spine.
By correcting foot dysfunction, pain in the knees, hips, and spine may be alleviated. Moreover, the Arthritis Foundation reports that by reducing joint stress, custom orthotics can potentially prevent or slow the progression of osteoarthritis.
4. Inspire exercise.
Better balance and stability promote confidence in venturing out. With greater comfort, your parents will likely become more active and inclined to exercise.
Orthotics can be made to fit shoes for different sports, such as dancing, golfing, skating, skiing, running, and hiking. Orthotic models are available for court activities too, such as basketball, tennis, and volleyball. Alternatively, a podiatrist can fashion a pair that’s easily transferred between dress and athletic shoes.
5. Improve muscle tone.
A sedentary lifestyle leads to muscle wasting and weakness. By wearing orthotics and being more active, your parents will build their muscle tone. With better joint alignment, leg muscles work more efficiently and are less prone to straining.
Orthotics also spare muscles from laboring to compensate for poor balance and faulty posture. Less muscle fatigue results in greater stamina.
American Foot and Leg Specialists has four Georgia offices, in Locust Grove, Forest Park, Fayetteville, and Stockbridge. Convenient to residents of Metro South Atlanta, we serve the counties of Clayton, Cobb, Douglas, Fayette, Fulton, and Henry. To make an appointment, please call us at (404) 363-9944, Monday through Friday, between 8am and 5pm.
Wearing orthotics will launch a chain reaction of positive changes in your parents’ well-being. Correcting foot dysfunction promotes better alignment of knees, hips, and spinal joints. Your parents will likely have better balance, feel greater comfort, and be more inclined to exercise, increasing their muscle strength.
With a podiatry consultation, your parents will be on the road to improved mobility. Make an appointment, and we’ll get cranking on crafting your gift!
Note – The information provided here cannot replace professional medical advice. For relief of foot and ankle discomfort, call American Foot and Leg Specialists.
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