One of the most common causes of foot and leg discomfort is a condition known as over pronation. Normal pronation, or “turning inward”, of the foot is necessary as the foot adapts to the ground. With over pronation, however, the arch flattens, collapses, and soft tissues stretch. This causes the joint surfaces to function at unnatural angles to each other. When this happens, joints that should be stable now become very loose and flexible. At first, over pronation may cause fatigue. As the problem gets worse, strain on the muscles, tendons, and ligaments of the foot and lower leg can cause permanent problems and deformities.
Overpronation often occurs in people with flat feet, whose plantar fascia ligament is too flexible or too long, and therefore unable to properly support the longitudinal arch of the foot. People tend to inherit the foot structure that leads to overpronation. In a normal foot the bones are arranged so that two arches are formed, the longitudinal and the transverse. Ligaments hold all the bones in their correct positions, and tendons attach muscles to bones. If the bones are held together too loosely, they will tend to move inwards as this is the easiest direction for them to go. Over time the soft tissue structures will adjust to the misalignment and the foot will become permanently over-flexible, with a flat arch.
Overpronation can negatively affect overall body alignment. The lowering of the longitudinal arch pulls the heel bone in, causing the leg, thigh bone and hip to rotate inwards, and an anterior tilt of the pelvis. Unnecessary strain to the ankles, knees, hips and back can result. Plantar fasciitis and inflammation, metatarsal pain, problems with the Achilles tendon, pain on the inside of the knee, and bursitis in the hip are just some of the conditions commonly associated with pronation.
At some point you may find the pain to much or become frustrated. So what are you options? Chances are your overpronation has led to some type of injury if there’s pain. Your best bet is to consult with someone who knows feet. Start with your pediatrist, chiropodist or chiropractor. They’ll be able to diagnose and treat the injury and give you more specific direction to better support your feet. One common intervention is a custom foot orthotic. Giving greater structural support than a typical shoe these shoe inserts can dramatically reduce overpronation.
Non Surgical Treatment
Solutions typically presented will include physical therapy sessions, prolonged prescription drug regimens, occasionally non-traditional approaches like holistic medicine and acupuncture. These options can provide symptom relief in the short term for some patients. However, these treatment methods cannot correct the internal osseous misalignment. Ligaments are not effective in limiting the motion of the ankle bone when excessive joint motion is present. Furthermore, there is not a single, specific ligament that is “too tight” that needs to be “stretched out.” The muscles supporting the bones are already being “over-worked” and they cannot be strengthened enough to realign these bones. There is no evidence to suggest that any of these measures are effective in re-establishing or maintaining the normal joint alignment and function.
Pronation forces us to bear most of our weight on the inner border of our feet. Custom-made orthotics gently redistributes the weight so that the entire foot bears its normal share of weight with each step we take. The foot will not twist out at the ankle, but will strike the ground normally when the orthotics is used. This action of the custom-made orthotics will help to prevent shin splints, ankle sprains, knee and hip pain, lower back pain, nerve entrapments, tendonitis, muscle aches, bunions, generalized fatigue, hammer toes, and calluses.