Knee Arthritis and Foot Orthotics

Knee Arthritis and Foot Orthotics

If you have painful wear and tear osteoarthritis of the knee, a podiatrist is probably the last medical professional that comes to your mind. Most people would think of an orthopedic surgeon or maybe a physical therapist. However, recent studies demonstrate that mild to moderate knee arthritis can be treated successfully using custom foot orthotics. Foot orthotics are orthopedic appliances made from a casting of your feet that enhance your natural walking motion.

Osteoarthritis of the knee is a common condition that can cause knee pain and disability. It is hard to walk, enjoy life, or do much of anything if your knee is stiffer than the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz. Using foot orthotics as an additional treatment option should be good news for patients looking to take less pain pills, avoid injections, put off knee surgery, and struggling to lose weight.

How does a foot orthotic reduce knee pain? It is thought that wedging your foot with an orthotic shifts your weight away from the painful arthritic area of the knee. Also, orthotics can decrease rotational forces on the knee. Future studies are needed to investigate whether or not orthotics can really slow the progression of knee arthritis.

A study by Rubin and Menz found pain reduction in almost all subjects with the degree of pain reduction greater in patients with less severe arthritis. Another study by Butler used motion analysis methods and found foot orthotics reduced joint movements and forces (joint moments).

I perform a lot of walking slow motion video studies in my podiatry practice. Often I observe timing problems with the knee during these studies, which can lead to arthritis over time. Sometimes a knee will rotate inward excessively or it won’t fully extend making that limb function shorter. Another example is when patients have their same side knee excessively flexed during heel strike. This has very poor implications for shock absorption.

If you think you may have knee pain from arthritis please see your primary care physician or a good orthopedist like Dr. Anthony Nwakama. We are truly blessed to have such a talented orthopedic surgeon here in Southwest Minnesota. Your doctor may want to take X-rays or blood tests to rule out other types of arthritis.

Now as a podiatrist, I don’t really treat knee arthritis. I just treat the foot dysfunction that leads to knee pain or knee arthritis. If your knee arthritis is mild or moderate, then consider custom foot orthotics as a non-invasive drug free treatment alternative.