From the desk of Nathan Henderson, LMT
Massage Therapist and founder of Atlas Massage
Let’s talk about orthotics. If you don’t know the term it refers to a science that is based on the idea that we can correct a dysfunction of the foot or feet by bracing them with a rigid or semi-rigid device. You may have heard of or found yourself standing on a machine that is intended to measure the balance of the feet from left to right and back to front. These machines claim to be able to tell the hidden secrets of the feet, showing us a road map to the problem and a blueprint to fixing it.
Before we can talk orthotics we need to understand the foot. It is a perfect balance of strength, flexibility and endurance. The foot is capable of rotation within all axes of movement, yet at the same time the foot must also be able to bear the weight of a full grown human while under the stress of running, climbing stairs, playing basketball, etc.
The foot and ankle has 26 bones, more than a quarter of the bones in the human body are in the feet. It contains more than 100 muscles, tendons and ligaments. It is a constantly changing structure, it flexes and absorbs shock while retaining strength and function, and for the most part it does this without failure. When a problem arises with your feet, such as pain or dysfunction, it is imperative that this delicate balance is restored and maintained.
Because the foot is not a static and unchanging landscape of bones and ligament, it is important to realize that a quick “snapshot” taken of the feet by the machine used to determine your orthotics is an improper representation of the feet to begin with. Imagine trying to get an idea of the churning of the ocean by simply taking a picture of it when it is calm. How could you ever really understand it without watching it move and ebb? To align and restore the balance of the foot, such a complex structure, the answer cannot be found in a rigid foam or gel filled insert which is meant to tilt, un-tilt, bend, flex or twist the foot in some manner that will somehow do the exact thing that is required to correct this imbalance. The orthotic science and the industry of selling these expensive devices to insert into your shoes are flawed. If the answer were to be found in this “crutch” then the foot would get better.
The truth is that these orthotics do not help the foot regain its balance and strength, they do the job for the foot. By taking over the role of the foot they encourage weakness and instability. They are at best a band-aid which should be removed quickly and at worst a permanent crutch that you will inevitably not be able to live without.
To test this theory is simple. Remove your shoes and walk around the house, without your shoes, without your orthotics, without any support but the foot you were born with. If your foot feels better when you do this then you don’t need those orthotics and your foot pain may be related to the shoe you wear. If your foot hurts more when you do this then your foot has become so dependent upon this orthotic that you need, more than anyone else, to throw them away and train your foot to do its job again.
If you baby your feet then they won’t be able to take the stress of life, if you use them the way they were meant to be used then they will stand up to the challenge.
At Atlas Massage we can help with this challenge and provide the correct therapy and exercises that you need to get better faster and stay that way FOREVER. -