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Pedorthics and Arthritis: Debunking Common Myths

As Pedorthists, we see patients with all types of medical issues that affect the foot and ankle. Arthritis is one such condition that can create chronic pain and cause problems with walking, standing and balance. Although arthritis is common, affecting about 20 percent of Canadians over age 12, it is not a generally well understood condition. Many myths about arthritis exist, but it’s important to set the record straight so patients can be well informed about their health.

Here are some common myths that many Pedorthists have encountered in our clinics:

Myth #1: Arthritis is an “Old People” Disease

There is a common misconception out there that arthritis only affects older adults. While it is true that people aged 55 and over are four times more likely to have arthritis than younger people, arthritis can affect people of all ages. In fact, arthritis affects three of every 1,000 Canadian children, and three out of five Canadians diagnosed with arthritis are of working age.

Myth #2: There’s Only One Kind of Arthritis

This is simply not true. The term Arthritis is an umbrella term for more than 100 related diseases affecting joints, tissues, or even the entire body. Common forms of arthritis like osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are what most people think of when they hear of arthritis, but other common conditions such as gout and lupus are forms of arthritis that might not come to mind as often. Carpal tunnel syndrome is another condition related to arthritis, and can be caused by the stress of repetitive motion.

Myth #3: Arthritis Only Affects the Joints

Arthritis can affect much more than just the joints: muscles, tendons, connective tissue, bones and bursa (the fluid-filled sacs around joints). Lupus can also affect organ functioning. Living with the chronic pain of arthritis can also have a profound impact on one’s mental health, and can contribute to depression, anger, disrupted sleep, fever, unexplained weight loss, weakness as well as fatigue. See our blog article for more on Pedorthists and chronic pain.

Myth #4: Exercise Makes Arthritis Worse

Thanks to recent studies, it is now recognized that exercise is essential to manage chronic pain, including arthritis. It may seem counterintuitive, but lifting weights and performing weight-bearing activities on your arthritic joints can actually help. This is because these activities can build muscles, which supports and protects joints in the long run. The best way to exercise with arthritis is by participating in low-impact exercises that encourage range of motion like walking, yoga, tai chi or water aerobics. Talk to a health care professional about joint-friendly activities that suit your interests and abilities.

Myth #5: Arthritis Can’t be Prevented

We may not know everything about arthritis, but we do know that healthy lifestyle choices like proper diets, exercise and maintaining a healthy weight can help reduce the risk. Studies have shown that among women, having excess weight increases the risk of arthritis in the hips and hands, while in men it increases the risk of gout.

If you work behind a desk all day, or have a job that requires repetitive motions, you can take simple steps to avoid pain and inflammation in your joints, which could lead to arthritis. Take frequent breaks, get up and move around, use proper form when lifting or moving items, and make sure your workspace is set up in an ergonomic way. It is also important to wear proper footwear to improve shock absorption and reduce impact on the joints.

Myth #6: Medication is the Only Treatment for Arthritis

Many people suffering from osteoarthritis may take acetaminophen and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to reduce inflammation, but this isn’t the only way to manage one’s symptoms. Some try physical and occupational therapy, while others may have surgery to remove some or all of an affected joint.

When it comes to arthritis in the feet, ankles, knees and hips, Pedorthists can offer alternatives to medication to help improve mobility and flexibility in lower limb joints through the use of custom-made orthotics and footwear. Custom orthotics can improve the alignment of the lower body, reducing abnormal stresses on the joints. They can also provide optimal cushioning to improve shock absorption and reduce pressure on any painful areas of the feet. Footwear with a firm forefoot rocker sole is particularly beneficial for people with painful arthritis in the forefoot and toes, as it promotes forward motion during gait while limiting toe flexion and pressure on the forefoot.

If you suffer from arthritis, it is important to educate yourself on the condition and the myths surrounding it so you can manage your condition and live your life to the fullest. Talk to your health care provider and visit your local Pedorthist to discuss ways to improve your mobility and range of motion by using custom-made orthotics and footwear. Click here to locate a Pedorthist near you today.

By Heather Orosz, BSc, C. Ped (C)

 

References:

Delzell, E. (n.d.). Feet Hurt? Slip in Some Relief With Shoe Inserts [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://www.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/pain-management/joint-protection/foot-pain-shoe-inserts.php 

Dostal, E. (2012, March 9). 8 Myths About Arthritis—Busted! [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://www.prevention.com/health/g20482654/8-myths-about-arthritis-busted/

Loranger, L. (2014, September 1). 7 Common Arthritis Myths Busted [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://www.physiotherapyalberta.ca/public_and_patients/the_you_movement_blog/7_common_arthritis_myths_busted

Rogers, E. (2018, September 5). 8 Myths About Arthritis Debunked [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://www.everythingzoomer.com/health/longevity/2018/09/05/8-myths-about-arthritis/

Statistics Canada. (2017). Table 13-10-0096-06, Arthritis, by age group. Retrieved from https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/t1/tbl1/en/tv.action?pid=1310009606


Meet a Pedorthist – Kevin Fraser

Kevin Fraser, C. Ped Tech (C), C. Ped (C)

When Kevin Fraser was growing up in Shelburne, Ontario, hockey was a big part of his life and it eventually led him to a career in pedorthics.

He grew up playing hockey and at the age of 17 sustained a tendon rupture in his left ankle that required surgical repair, followed by extensive physiotherapy and the use of an ankle-foot orthosis. This was his introduction to orthotics and the pedorthic profession.

Kevin received his bachelor’s degree in Health and Society at York University, and his Orthotics and Prosthetics Technician diploma at George Brown College.

He later received his C. Ped Tech (C) and the following year, his C. Ped (C). He trained as a pedorthic intern before joining a foot care team at a Toronto hospital where he now practices as a Certified Pedorthist – specializing in high-risk feet, traumatic injuries and partial foot amputations.

Kevin also shares his expertise with students in the classroom. He joined the faculty at George Brown College where he works as a professor in the Orthotics and Prothetics Programs and also did a stint with the faculty at Western University as a course instructor in the post-degree diploma in Pedorthics.

Kevin says in addition to teaching, he still maintains a full patient load at the hospital – both jobs that he feels very passionate about.

“Being based out of Canada’s largest trauma hospital, I see a great variety of complex and interesting cases. Every day is different,” he says, adding that he also enjoys working with a wide range of medical specialists including orthopeadic and plastic surgeons, nurses, orthotists, and prosthetists.

Kevin says his career has allowed him to make a difference in patients’ lives – and, future pedorthists.

The most rewarding part of his work is seeing the improvement that his treatment makes in the quality and comfort of his patients’ lives, and teaching the next generation of pedorthists, orthotists, and prosthetists.

In his spare time, Kevin plays for the hospital men’s hockey team and is an avid golfer. Additionally, he is involved in the Pedorthic Association of Canada (PAC) – having served in a variety of positions, including President of PAC.


Foot Health Awareness Month

May is our favourite month as it is Foot Health Awareness Month!  

A 2014 study revealed that nearly 75% of people over the age of 18 have experienced foot pain. Nearly half of those surveyed said they would be more active if they could get rid of the foot pain, yet only a third of them said they had talked to a healthcare professional about their pain.

Canadian Certified Pedorthists hear again and again from patients that they delayed booking an appointment because they thought the pain was something they had to live with. To help you avoid months of unnecessary foot and lower limb pain, this month, we’re going to be sharing many tips on how to keep your feet healthy as well as how to relieve different types of pain.

But first we want to make sure you know what Canadian Certified Pedorthists do and how they can help you.

What is a Pedorthist?

Canadian Certified Pedorthists – C. Ped (C) – are foot orthotic and orthopaedic footwear experts. They are trained in the assessment of lower limb anatomy and muscle and joint function. They help reduce foot and lower limb pain through the use of footwear selection and modification and by designing, fitting and modifying custom foot orthotics. In short, they improve your mobility so you can continue to live a healthy active life.

Canadian Certified Pedorthists work alongside physicians, nurse practitioners and other healthcare providers. To find a Canadian Certified Pedorthist in your community visit www.pedorthic.ca/find-a-pedorthist/

Come back frequently this month to find out more about pedorthists and learn foot health tips.


Meet a Pedorthist – Jordanna Jones

Jordanna Jones, C. Ped (C)

Jordanna Jones had goals of becoming a physiotherapist – but those plans changed when her guidance counselor suggested volunteering with a pedorthist at the University of Western Ontario (UWO).

“I went into kinesiology at Western, planning on a physiotherapy career,” explains Jordanna. “But as I went through school and volunteered with physios, I wanted to look at other options.”  When she received her placement with a Certified Pedorthist, she realized that the pedorthic profession was the perfect fit.

Jordanna received her pedorthic certification in 2005 and continued working at the clinic, where she completed her placements for the UWO program. She became clinic manager a few years later, while also teaching in Western’s pedorthic program.

Jordanna says that she enjoys teaching students – and finds that she often learns new things as an instructor at Western.  “I have found throughout my career that I love learning and teaching,” she says. “There’s no better way to do both than instruct in the program, because with new students every year, there are always new questions and ideas – so I get to learn from them as well!”

After 14 years in the business, Jordanna has also trained about 20 students on the job.

In addition to helping students prepare for their future as pedorthists, Jordanna says the most rewarding part of her work has been helping her patients.  “[I enjoy] helping people who come in with pain, and getting them back to their activities – especially when it’s a really big deal in their life,” she says. “That’s why I love this job.”

Jordanna says that when she’s not teaching at Western or managing three clinics, she can be found spending time with her family. Her eldest son is a brown belt in karate, so she says they spend a lot of time at the dojo.


Meet a Pedorthist – Kathrine Simpson

Kathrine Simpson, C. Ped (C)

Kathrine Simpson never thought she would open her own clinic. In fact, she says she would have laughed at the thought.

The Pedorthist and business owner started her career as a young adult, volunteering with special needs children at a children’s centre in Windsor. That is where she discovered hydrotherapy and rehabilitation.

Kathrine first graduated with an honour’s degree in Human Kinetics from the University Of Windsor.

Upon graduating, she worked as a registered kinesiologist at Windsor Regional Hospital – largely in hydrotherapy. It was exactly where she wanted to be so early in her career. However, the hospital decided to discontinue its hydrotherapy pool, and Kathrine wasn’t sure of her next career move.

She decided to look into the University of Western Ontario’s Diploma in Pedorthics program.

“It was a no brainer,” Kathrine says, “I could keep my family home, and pursue something I knew there was a demand.”

When she finished the program, she couldn’t find a job locally so she pursued one of her other passions – teaching.

“I moved forward to teach physiotherapy assistant courses at the college, and worked in a private therapy running hydrotherapy sessions,” says Kathrine. A couple years later, she decided to finish what she started in Pedorthics.

When she received her C. Ped (C), she was offered part time work for a local franchise in Windsor. She had been in that position for three years when a relative unexpectedly reached out and asked if she would consider joining their medical team.

At this time, Kathrine’s husband was also looking for a change. He had spent the last 20 years traveling across North America for work. It was the opportunity that her family needed, and soon she has incorporated her own orthotics and footwear business.

Currently, she is the clinic’s pedorthist and also has a receptionist and a foot care nurse on staff.

“I envision my clinic to be an excellent resource centre for potential students interested in rehabilitation or Pedorthics,” Kathrine says.

When she’s not busy running her clinic, Kathrine enjoys spending time with her family – including golfing, kayaking, bike riding and mini weekend getaways.


Chronic Foot & Ankle Pain: Can a Pedorthist Help?

Are you someone who experiences chronic pain in your feet or ankles? Perhaps the pain is a result of an injury, or perhaps the cause of the pain is unknown to you. Either way, it’s a good idea to visit your local pedorthist to see what can be done to alleviate your pain and help you to resume an active healthy lifestyle.

I have seen many clients over the years with chronic foot and/or lower limb pain. They come to see me in the hopes that I can do something to help them deal with the issues they are experiencing. Each time I encounter a patient with chronic pain in my clinic, I do my best to develop a tailor-made solution to the problem that works for the client. Here are some of the issues I have seen, and the treatments I have recommended.

Problems Pedorthists Encounter

  • One client came to me with sore heels after falling off a granary and landing 12 feet below on the ground. Once the breaks in the heel bones had healed up and the rehab specialists had done what they could, pain persisted in the patient’s daily activities. I was able to make a pair of supportive foot orthoses with cushioning that helped relieve the heel pain. This allowed the patient to return to work with a lot less pain.
  • I saw a client who had bunions and pain at the ball of the foot when walking. This was a chronic condition because the condition was a longstanding one and the patient’s doctor was uncertain how best to proceed. Foot orthoses at the ball of the foot were made and I gave advice about appropriate shoes to wear; both helped to relieve the pain.
  • Another client had a bad case of plantar fascitis that started in the summer while wearing heavy work boots and walking a lot. I gave the patient advice about icing and stretching the foot and doing appropriate exercises. This treatment plan, along with a pair of foot orthotics, made a huge difference for this case.
  • A client came in with a complicated case of gout, and because they were unable to take the standard medicine for gout, there was swelling in the foot that gave plantar fasciitis symptoms. My clinic provided the patient with a modified pair of shoes that were wide enough to accommodate the forefoot and deep enough to accommodate the swelling in the foot. The shoes had a positive toe rocker built into them and this helped the patient walk more comfortably. Dietary modifications put in place by dieticians and fellow gout sufferers along with changing his medicine has helped relieve the swelling and some pain.
  • Finally, a client came to my clinic with a complicated chronic pain syndrome with swelling that gave plantar fasciitis symptoms. In this case, a custom orthotic did help to relieve the one area of plantar fasciitis pattern pain, but not the rest of the foot. The rest needed to be treated by other specialists. Since a lot of re-injury was occurring while the client was asleep, a cast boot was supplied to be worn at night for injury prevention.

Pedorthists as Part of a Team Approach

As you can see in a few of the examples above, pedorthists can be an important part of the treatment one receives for foot and lower limb problems, particularly problems of chronic pain. The Pedorthist may not have all the parts of the solution though. In order to effectively deal with problems, sometimes a team approach might be needed between a doctor, a physical therapist and others to assess your situation and do what they each can to help. This team approach is usually the best way to see results quickly and help you to return to work and normal activity.

Once the root cause is established, there is much that a pedorthist can do as a part of a team to help get you back on your feet and help you to resume an active healthy lifestyle.  Doctors are best suited to casting broken bones, dealing with secondary injuries and giving pain relief. Physiotherapists are best suited to help rehabilitate people with some exercises and treatments like diathermy, ultrasound and cold laser therapy.  When all the parts are put together, the results are better than just the parts put together!

If you are suffering from chronic pain in your feet, ankles or legs, go see a pedorthist near you for help –just visit Find a Pedorthist to locate one near you today!

By Jim Pattison, C. Ped (C)


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