Continuing on this week on the topic of what foot conditions do orthotics help with, we will finish this topic by discussing how orthotics may play in the role of two important tendon issues: Achilles tendonitis and posterior tibial tendonitis.
Achilles tendonitis is a common condition that is due to acute injury or chronic stress of the Achilles tendon, the thickest tendon in the leg and one whose health is of the utmost importance for proper walking. This tendon connects the muscles of the calf with the foot, allowing them to flex the foot downward. This action also controls the foot's stability as it resists the force of the ground pushing the ankle upward. When the tendon is inflamed, walking can become difficult due to the pain. Eventually the tendon weakens and is at risk for rupturing.
Orthotics can have a limited effect on the control of Achilles tendonitis. While orthotics do not really control the primary motion of the ankle joint, they can control the rolling of the heel bone to which the Achilles tendon attaches. When this motion is limited, the strain on the tendon can be reduced. The action of the orthotic to control excessive foot motion also reduces the overall Achilles strain. While orthotics cannot treat Achilles tendonitis well, they can help to prevent it.
Posterior tibial tendonitis can be just as devastating, and is in fact more degenerative with a direct impact on foot shape. The posterior tibial tendon attached the inner side of the foot, and its purpose is to draw the foot inward. It is a powerful tendon that serves to resist excessive foot flattening, and when it becomes injured by trauma or chronic strain from flat feet, the tendon will weaken. If this process continues, the weakness will cause a severe flattening of the foot and reconstructive surgery will be necessary.
Orthotics have a direct and significant role in both treating and preventing this condition by reducing the strain of flat feet and protecting the tendon from stretching excessively under the tension of bodyweight. It is far less common for people with flat feet who wear orthotics to get posterior tibial tendonitis in the first place. For those without orthotics who develop the condition, it is not uncommon to re-develop it after treatment. Therefore, orthotic use is of vital importance to the stability of the posterior tibial tendon and the foot in general.
We hope the last few blog posts have been helpful in describing the actual conditions orthotics are commonly used to treat, and how a small piece of molded plastic can make so much of a difference. Look next week for a new topic on all things foot and ankle!