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Orthotics is an allied health care medical profession or field that is concerned with the design, development, fitting and manufacturing of orthoses, which are devices that support or correct musculoskeletal deformities and/or abnormalities of the human body - such as flat/fallen/pronated feet.
The term orthotics is derived from the Greek "ortho", meaning to straighten. Sciences such as materials engineering, gait analysis, anatomy and physiology, and psychology contribute to the work done by orthotists, the professionals engaged in the field of orthotics.
Simply put, foot orthotics allow the muscles, tendons and bones of the feet and lower legs to function at their highest potential. When appropriately prescribed, orthotics can decrease pain, not only in the foot, but in other parts of the body such as the knee, hip and lower back. They can also increase stability in an unstable joint, prevent a deformed foot from developing additional problems, and improve overall quality of life.
Since feet are the major weight-bearing part of the body, foot pain is a common symptom. The foot contains 26 bones, up to 2 sesamoid bones, and many small structures which support and balance the weight of the entire body. Walking puts up to 1.5 times one's body weight on the foot, and humans walk an average of 1,000 miles per year.
Foot pain is not normal and should not be ignored; problems can affect the functioning of other parts of the body, including the hips, knees, and back. These are foot-related problems that may be related to biomechanical issues. Chiropractors, podiatrists, physical therapists and sports medicine practitioners will often recommend custom foot orthoses as part of a treatment regimen.
They are prescribed to:
- Reduce the symptoms associated with many foot related pathologies.
- Provide support
- Accommodate foot deformity
- Provide better positioning
- Relieve pressure on a certain area of the foot
- Improve the overall biomechanical function of the foot and lower extremity
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