Ask the Doc………
“Is it a good idea to have my children’s feet checked? My Pediatrician has never really looked at them.”
Absolutely! Having your children’s or grandchildren’s feet checked is one of the most important things you can do for them medically. Among many other things, this can greatly help to decrease sports injuries, increase sports performance and to prevent osteoarthritis in later years.
Frankly, it’s very unfortunate that so little importance is relegated to the human foot by most health care professionals and coaches. Look at how much emphasis is placed on having your child’s teeth checked and they’re replaceable! Your child’s feet are the foundation of their entire body and their proper positioning has a profound direct and indirect effect on their health.
Many times the problems we see in children’s feet and legs are attributed to “growing pains” or Osgood Schlatter’s Disease. Yet if you think about this generally accepted cliché it really doesn’t make much sense. Is their single painful joint or few painful joints the only ones that are growing? Obviously not. So although growth may be a factor, it most certainly can’t be the primary cause.
When one sided knee pain develops in active young people, medical professionals use the term “runner’s knee.” Again, this makes no sense; are these individuals only running on one leg? Problems such as these and heel pain, shin splints and many others are primarily due to the increased stress and strain on our musculoskeletal systems caused by poor foot positioning and the subsequent misalignment that causes. Because of this, these problems can often be both prevented and alleviated by optimally aligning the foot.
As mentioned, optimal foot positioning is also very important in sports. I recently saw a young girl for example, who broke her ankle while playing soccer. Contrary to what she was told, this wasn’t a simple soccer injury. The tight calf muscles she had made it impossible for her to pick her feet up properly while running and so she tripped, twisting and breaking her ankle.
A child who plays baseball and bats right handed but who has a longer left leg will never be fully able to follow through on their swing regardless of their effort or fine coaching. Simply correcting this problem can have profound effects on improving their performance in many sports.
If a foot problem is identified, parents are usually told that their children will outgrow it. The truth is you don’t outgrow most foot problems but to the contrary, you grow into them; i.e., the flexible, usually easily correctible problems seen initially become fixed, rigid, often painful problems as they grow and develop. So the earlier a child’s foot problems are identified, the easier it is to correct them.
Arthritis is the number one cause of pain and disability today. We have been led to believe that osteoarthritis is due to age, as is heart disease, because both occur more in older people. But we now know that the plaque that builds up in our coronary vessels begins first in childhood. In the very same way, a child whose foot rolls inward and flattens (pronates), or who has a longer leg, may very well develop arthritis many decades later. Indeed, recent data shows that the major cause of osteoarthritis is not age as we physicians have been taught, but rather structural problems like those just mentioned, almost always beginning in childhood. It is these structural problems that we inherit and that can be stopped in most instances in children.
When you consider that in their average lifetime, your child will walk over four times around the world and carry over nine hundred thousand billion lbs of pressure on their feet…now that’s a number... it might not be a bad idea to prepare those two “orphan appendages” at the end of their bodies for the journey. You certainly would do the same for the tires on your car if you planned an extended trip.
Unlike dental exams which are routinely recommended, a thorough foot evaluation can be done much less often and still have profound, positive, lifelong effects.
A former reconstructive foot and ankle surgeon, past Clinical Instructor of Medicine at Emory, and Fellow of the American College of Rheumatology, Dr. Pack practices in Greensboro and Atlanta. He treats athletes at all levels and works with patients who have arthritis and want to remain active. In the 2004 Olympics he had a silver and gold medalist, and helped the UGA Golf Team (2005 NCCA National Champions). For further information please contact him directly at 770-335-9201, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or see his website at www.drloupack.com. His new book, The Arthritis Revolution, Latest Research on Staying Active without Pain Medication or Surgery, is available on LuLu.com or Amazon.com.