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Sep 8

Written by: Cherri Choate, DPM

The question, "Do orthotics work?" is common. Perhaps a higher level question would be, "How do orthotics work?", but this higher level question is beyond the scope of my blog session.  I would like to focus more on, "Do they work?"  In order to answer this question. we need to establish what exactly "work" means. 
The application of orthotics as a component of patient treatment forces the practitioner to define the end goal(s) of the therapy.  These end goals are often patient-specific.  Common goals for orthotic use would be pain relief, off-loading, cushioning, deceleration of deformity progression, improvement of gait, improvement of activities of daily living,  and improvement of lower extremity mechanics.  So, it is reasonable to say that as long as the goals are correct, and orthotics are successful, then they "work."   Unlike a product or medication that is used to treat one symptom, orthotics are used to treat a variety of symptoms. Perhaps lack of evidence as to "how" they work, is due to the complex nature of this orthotic/patient symptom relationship.  
As researchers continue to discover the "how" of orthotics, practitioners need to continue to discern"why"and "what" on a day to day basis.  As we gain more individual data, it will empower the research field to work towards answering all these questions with reproducible evidence.

A paper published in 2009 by Landsman, et al, asked "do orthotics work" in a few specific areas, on both subjective and objective levels. For more information on this article see today's EJournal.


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