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Common Sense, Non-Surgical Therapies Correct Clubfoot, Researchers Find

Tuesday, November 04, 2008 by: Sherry Baker, Health Sciences Editor
Tags: clubfoot, health news, Natural News

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(NewsTarget) When people search the Internet and do their own research on non-surgical and non-drug therapies, do they ever come up with solutions that elude most mainstream physicians? The answer is "yes " -- and an important example is found in the November 2008 issue of The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery which documents how two non-surgical treatments can almost always "cure" the birth defect known as "clubfoot".

How did the physicians gain this knowledge? "These treatments have been around for decades, but they hadn't received wide acceptance," B. Stephens Richards, M.D., primary author of the study said in a prepared statement for the press. "Until about 15 years ago, the common treatment for clubfoot was still surgery. However, things began to change with the emergence of the Internet. Parents began researching treatment options for their children and found information about the Ponseti and French methods, so interest in these treatments began to spread, and we saw how successful they can be."

That's right. Richards, assistant chief of staff and medical director of inpatient services at Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children and the current president of the Pediatric Orthopedic Society of North America, is admitting that parents, armed with information from the Internet that worked for their children, have actually convinced orthopedists that there's a common sense solution for clubfoot.

The Ponseti and French methods Richards refers to are similar and both involve physical manipulation of the feet. In the Ponseti method, the foot is stretched and then held in position by a cast extending above the knee. The cast is removed weekly and the foot is stretched a bit further and then put back in a cast. After three to five casts, the clubfoot (a defect causing the foot to turn inward) is usually straightened. Sometimes the Achilles tendon is still too tight and orthopedists encourage surgery to lengthen it. Then the child is put in a brace full-time for about three months and nightly for around two years. The French functional method consists of stretching, exercise, massage, and immobilization of the foot with non-elastic tape every day to slowly guide the foot into the correct position. This therapy is mostly performed by a physical therapist for a few months and then parents take over the treatments at home. The taping and splinting are continued until about age two and surgery is usually not required.

The study reported in The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery found that the two methods had similarly high levels of success, according to the study. After two years, 94.4 percent of children achieved satisfactory correction of their clubfoot when the Ponseti method was used and 95 percent of those in the French method group experienced satisfactory correction.

The main reason these non-surgical approaches didn't work in some cases was simply due to lack of compliance. "For example, the parents might not brace the child's feet for the required number of hours or may not perform the stretching every day. We know now that non-surgical treatment can have a very good chance of a positive outcome, but parents need to know that complying with the treatment plan is extremely important," stated Dr. Richards.

Clubfoot occurs in approximately one in every 1,000 births. In some cases, the foot is so severely turned that the sole of the foot seems to be facing upward and the involved foot, calf, and leg are smaller and shorter than the normal side. Although not a painful condition, if left untreated it can cause difficulty when the child learns to walk and may eventually lead to significant disability by adolescence.

About the author

Sherry Baker is a widely published writer whose work has appeared in Newsweek, Health, the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Yoga Journal, Optometry, Atlanta, Arthritis Today, Natural Healing Newsletter, OMNI, UCLA’s "Healthy Years" newsletter, Mount Sinai School of Medicine’s "Focus on Health Aging" newsletter, the Cleveland Clinic’s "Men’s Health Advisor" newsletter and many others.

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