In-houseorthotics helps cut cost for patients

Published on Thu, Jul 13, 2006 by Jack Kintner

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In-house orthotics helps cut cost for patients

By Jack Kintner

Blaine physical therapist Alan Finston moved his practice from H Street to his new location at 250 G Street two years ago, and one of the things that provided was the needed space for an in-house lab.

This allows him to make orthotic devices for people’s feet more quickly and cheaper than when done outside his office, and he can also modify them on site, saving time.

Finston, who’s been practicing for 13 years, the last 10 of them in Blaine, said that mis-aligned feet can often cause chronic aches and pains extending up to and including the lower back.

An orthotic device can help alleviate these problems because they hold a patient’s foot in a neutral position in much the same way that a shim can level an otherwise wobbly or uneven table leg.

Human legs and feet, of course, are a little more complex than those found on a table, and the devices that Finston can now make in his Blaine office reflect this.

They’re usually made of a combination of cork and either a closed-cell white foam cushion called Pelite or leather, depending on the stiffness desired.

“Younger patients or those who are playing sports have different needs from older folks who would tend to want a somewhat softer insert,” Finston said.

To make them Finston makes a mold of each foot after first carefully placing it in a neutral position.

If done correctly, the device can be used inside a shoe or sandal to put the foot into a neutral position relative to the rest of the patient’s bones and muscles, alleviating pain and allowing for more activity.

The devices are becoming more and more popular as the population ages but remains physically active.

“Before I had the lab I’d have to send the work to outside labs, which meant delays,” Finston said. “This way, someone is fitted here and then if they need them tweaked, I can do it while they wait.”

The cost savings run about 20 to 30 percent, he said, “because I can do them for about $80 per foot here, but if I send them out, and sometimes that still is necessary, then it’s more like $100 or more for each foot.”
Finston’s Whatcom Physical Therapy and Whatcom Fitness, a companion exercise facility in the same building, are located at 250 G Street in Blaine.

Finston’s office hours are 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday and Fridays from 7 a.m. until 6 p.m.

For more information call 332-8617.