You may not have heard of it but clubfoot is actually a common birth deformity. Approximately 1 in 1000 babies born can have clubfoot, in which the foot is turned up and inward, or twisted some other way. Whether it be from short tendons or a problem while in the womb, clubfoot can affect one or both feet. Genetic factors can also affect whether or not a baby is born with clubfoot, with there being a higher risk if a previous sibling was born with clubfoot.
Doctors can diagnose clubfoot right after the birth as the deformity is easy to spot. Because of this, babies can get treatment right away, reducing the probability of them having to get major surgery when they are older.
There are two methods that are typically used for treating clubfoot, the Ponseti method and the French Functional method.
With the Ponseti method, the idea is to gradually move, stretch, and cast the baby’s foot until it takes on the correct position. Since babies are still developing and happen to be very flexible, this is a very effective approach. As the child grows, the podiatrist or orthopedic surgeon may need to perform a minor surgery to lengthen the Achilles tendon at the back of the ankle.
Similar to the Ponseti method is the French Functional method. This puts more of a focus on physical therapy, in which stretching and mobilization is stressed in between taping the feet and ankles in a proper position. Physical therapy is used 3 times a week for several months to allow the feet and ankles to increase flexibility. A splint is used to keep it in proper position until the next session.
For most cases, treating early and often can fix the problem by the time they are young children. If the problem is still severe, or if the maintenance exercises and bracing are not done as prescribed, the only treatment left is surgery to reconstruct the ankle and foot.
If clubfoot is untreated, it is not a major health issue when they are young, but your baby will have trouble with crawling or learning to walk. As they get older, mobility issues and even arthritis can affect them.
Children who are born with clubfoot should have regular checkups to maintain proper development. Our podiatrists can help with these processes. Make an appointment with us at The Podiatry Group. Our podiatrists, Dr. Mark E. Reiner, Dr. Michael A. Haughey, Dr. William G. Coates, and Dr. Erik D. Rosenlof can perform a thorough assessment at our Jonesboro, AR office to treat their feet and keep them healthy.