Rehabilitation vs. Supportive Products Like Orthotics – Which Is Better?

Maladaptation Is the Leading Cause of Most Foot-Related Problems

Protective reflex mechanisms are responsible for the bone alignment and muscular stabilization, throughout the feet, legs, hips, and back, required to safely manage the stresses and forces generated during all types of activity. In an unrestrictive environment, this ideal alignment promotes a balance of strength and flexibility, which effectively reduces the stress and strain throughout.

The proprioceptive mechanisms and reflex function in the feet, legs, hips, and back are synergistic; what affects one area has a corresponding affect on the other areas. When the functional mechanics adapt or maladapt through repetition and become reflexive, all areas are equally affected.

It is no surprise that optimal foot health is so frequently misunderstood. All our lives we have been taught that our feet must be supported and cushioned to be problem free. Did you know that long-term support and cushioning are not recommended in any other area of musculoskeletal medicine to rehabilitate or improve function? Extended periods of artificial support and a chronic lack of direct stimulation are proven to cause maladaptation, reduce strength and flexibility, increase stiffness and pain, and promote dependence in the target areas, all with negative consequences for the entire body.

Almost all conventional footwear interferes with healthy natural foot function to some degree. This is particularly true of shoes that restrict the raising of the toes and arches, provide extra "support and cushioning,” or incorporate excessive motion-control features. Over time, the feet maladapt as they conform to these restrictive and less stimulating footwear environments. This maladaptation is a leading cause of most foot-related problems.

Supportive Products

Motion control footwear, orthotics, and other insole products attempt to address the symptoms of maladaptation by artificially supporting and/or cushioning the foot.

However, recent research indicates that, while these products may provide some temporary relief of symptoms, they do not “correct” the problem and they do nothing to encourage optimal muscle activity. In fact, they discourage it.

Recent studies have shown that users of these products suffer more foot-related injuries than those who use nothing at all in their shoes. This is because continued use of supportive/cushioning products can further weaken and destabilize the feet, as they would with other parts of the body, causing them to become more dependent on the artificial support. It is well accepted that long-term use of supportive and/or cushioning products conditions maladaptive proprioceptive muscle activity and impairs optimal musculoskeletal mechanics.

Furthermore, it has long been understood that maladaptive function in the form of muscle atrophy, loss of bone mass (weakening), joint stiffness, and an increased dependence upon the artificial support or brace result from long-term support or bracing of the musculoskeletal structure.

If we know that the foot’s instability and impaired function results from inefficient use and restrictive/supportive footwear environments, why don’t we then want to retrain and rehabilitate instead of bracing the foot?

Rehabilitative Therapies

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, exercise that promotes strengthening and joint mobility is fundamental to optimal musculoskeletal health and is the number-one recommended treatment for arthritic muscle and joint pain.

Exercise regimes are regularly employed as a means to rehabilitate or improve (mal)adapted musculoskeletal function. The use of proper technique is fundamental to the effectiveness of rehabilitative exercise programs. “Technique” training is proprioceptive training and this conditioning concept is the foundation of most modern sport training and conditioning. That is, “proper technique” is fundamental for conditioning optimal “healthy” musculoskeletal function. It promotes little or no degenerative stress, reduces risk of injury, and enhances performance capabilities. “Poor technique,” on the other hand, conditions less than optimal musculoskeletal function, enhances (mal)adaptation, increases degenerative stress, increases risk of injury, and hampers performance capabilities (in short the structure becomes weaker and less mechanically sound).

Aside from exercise regimes, a variety of methods are commonly employed to increase mobility (including addressing scar tissue/fibrosis), increase strength and improve muscle function such as ultrasound, deep tissue massage, Active Release Technique, Graston Technique, etc.

That is what BioPods insoles and footwear are designed to do and that is why they are so different from conventional supportive and cushioning products.

BioPodsTM - The Rehabilitative Alternative

BioPods insoles and footwear are designed to encourage healthy protective reflex function and work in harmony with the natural dynamic movement of the feet rather than attempt to artificially support, cushion, control, or restrict. When using BioPods insoles and footwear, your shoes should be loosely laced to allow room for adequate foot flexion.

BioPods insoles and footwear provide a safe “spring-like” variable stimulus under the center of your arches that continually engages and optimizes your body’s protective reflexes in the feet, legs, hips, and back when walking, running, or other weight-bearing movement.

Regular variable stimulus challenges the body's natural proprioceptive and protective reflex mechanisms and causes them to adapt towards healthier function. Even though the stimulus is at the sole of the foot, it affects proprioceptive and reflex function in the feet, legs, hips, and back.

Soft Tissue Adaptation Phase

When using BioPods insoles and footwear for the first time, the body's neuromuscular systems will undergo a soft tissue adaptation phase as the feet, legs, hips, and back respond to the BioPods stimulus. As with any neuromuscular muscle training, the soft tissue adaptation phase takes approximately 6-8 weeks for most individuals, but can take longer for those sufferers noted below. During this period, it is normal to experience transitory twinges or tightness in various areas at different times. It is during this period that latent historical scar tissue or fibrosis may become noticeable in the form of soreness. Seek advice from medical professionals who specialize in soft tissue mobilization, as noted below, if soreness persists.

Please Note:

BioPods insoles and footwear do not treat already damaged tissue, such as scar tissue or fibrosis that has been caused by trauma or maladaptation related degenerative stresses from poor foot mechanics and function. Damaged tissues can be treated by a medical professional with complementary conventional mobilization therapies such as ultrasound, deep tissue massage, A.R.T. (Active Release Technique), or Graston Technique, as appropriate.

RECOMMENDATION for sufferers of chronic myofascial pain, fibromyalgia, plantar fibrosis, or multiple trigger points:

It may take longer to adapt to the BioPods stimulus. It is possible that enough inelastic scar tissue or fibrosis has developed to cause transient pain or “sticking points” that will reveal themselves during the soft tissue adaptation phase. In these instances, a medical professional can apply a regime of complementary soft tissue mobilization therapies such as ultrasound, deep tissue massage, A.R.T. (Active Release Technique), Graston Technique, etc., to break down the scar tissue or fibrosis and restore elasticity to the soft tissues for full mobility.