How Foot Orthoses Can Help Relieve Your Knee Pain From Osteoarthritis

How Foot Orthoses Can Help Relieve Your Knee Pain From Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is one of the leading causes of disability in New Zealand, according to the NZ Medical Journal. The most common site of osteoarthritis is the knee, affecting up to one-third of our population at some point in their lives. While it’s a major cost on our healthcare system here – approximately $4 billion every year for all types of arthritis – what is even more devastating is the pain, discomfort and difficulty walking that many live with until they can get in to have a total knee replacement – if they can afford it, if they want it and if the condition of their health makes them a suitable candidate for surgery (and the lengthy recovery that goes with it).

Simply put: knee osteoarthritis and its complications are a major problem here. And we have a solution to help relieve and manage your pain, so you can walk more comfortably and even slow the progression of your symptoms, using foot orthotics. Let us explain.

P.s. if you’d like to learn more about osteoarthritis in general, click here.


What happens to the knee joint in arthritis?

When you have osteoarthritis, though it can affect any part of the knee, evidence has shown that it is most likely to affect the inside of the knee joint, known as the medial compartment of the knee. This is due to higher compression forces on the inside of the knee and more knee adduction. Translated, it just means that the inside of the knee has greater forces through it from walking and movement, which means it gets damaged faster. This means that the cartilage on the inside of the knee, responsible for helping absorb forces and keep the joint moving smoothly, wears down faster, thinning and deteriorating – and not to mention having the potential to cause plenty of other problems. Hence, you get pain, discomfort, and trouble walking and bending the knee.


Where do foot orthoses come into this?

The brilliance of foot orthoses is that they’re custom-designed for the specific purpose of altering the way the feet and legs function, something we call your biomechanical function. We literally create devices that change how your feet and legs handle and transmit forces with every step. So the solution is quite logical: shift the forces away from the inside knee joint – and while we’re at it, given that the cartilage has worn down and the space between the bones in the knee joint has decreased, get the orthotics to help open it up.


Yes, the research supports this function

Before you ask, yes! Numerous studies have shown that orthotics with specific features do shift the way the forces are transmitted through the knee, changing both the knee mechanics and the symptoms that patients experience.  


And yes, our patients are reaping the rewards

With custom orthotic prescription being one of the key services that we deliver and specialise in, using orthotics to help manage osteoarthritic knee pain is something that we do extensively, often with great results. The times where we do not see the clinical results we’d hoped for is in severely affected knees, where a number of other degenerative and bony changes have occurred that make the process (and the joint itself) more complicated.

Here’s a fantastic example of one of our patients (all permission given to use this photo). The difference between these two photos in five minutes, and one pair of custom foot orthotics in his shoes. 

What you’re seeing is orthoses that are encouraging his feet to pronate (roll more downwards), and therefore encourage less forces and more joint space on the inside of the knee. This action is instant – and so is the relief that this patient experienced. More than this, these orthoses will help his get the best results in the long-term by slowing further joint degeneration on the inside of the knee.


Need help with your knee pain?

If you have knee pain from knee osteoarthritis – whether you’ve been told that painkillers and a total knee replacement is your only long-term option, or whether you’ve yet to seek any treatment and care, we’d love to help. Call us on 06 370 4057 or book online to make an appointment with our experienced podiatry team.