Clubs have their time and place. They’re a great tool when you’re out on the golf course. When your newborn’s feet are twisted so they partially resemble a club, you know something isn’t right. Clubfoot is a common birth defect that twists one or both of your infant’s feet in just that way. The right treatment and care, however, will allow your child to walk and run normally later in life.
An Unknown Source
No one is entirely sure what causes a clubfoot deformity. It’s a congenital condition, which means your child is born with it. The condition appears to have a genetic component, since parents born with clubbed feet have a higher risk for children with the same problem. Occasionally the condition is connected to a larger neuromuscular problem, like spina bifida, so you’ll need to have your infant’s health carefully checked. In most cases, your baby is otherwise completely healthy—he or she just has clubbed feet.
How Your Baby’s Feet Are Affected
The connective tissue that connects your child’s legs to the insides of his or her feet is too short, which is why the foot grows twisted inward instead of straight forward. The calf muscle is also slightly thin and underdeveloped. All of this can and must be addressed right away. Your baby’s feet will stay twisted unless they are treated early enough. Without treatment, the feet will continue to grow in the turned position, becoming set as the bones harden. Eventually your child will be forced to walk on the side of the foot instead of the sole. This can be painful and sharply limit your son or daughter’s mobility.
Not the End: Straighten Feet Conservatively
The good news is that your baby isn’t stuck with clubfoot, and he or she might not even need surgery. Conservative therapies are, in fact, the first option for treating clubbed feet. Dr. Cynthia Oberholtzer-Classen and the team will carefully evaluate your child’s feet and determine if other health problems exist. Then our staff will help you begin the process of straightening the clubfoot deformity.
The most common method features a process of stretching and casting. Your baby’s feet will be carefully stretched and manipulated to straighten the feet and lengthen the shortened tendons and muscles. Then your child’s feet will be cast into place. After a week, the cast is removed and the process is repeated. Your child’s feet are then stretched and cast into the correct position. Once the feet have completely straightened out, one more cast will be applied and left in place for several weeks.
After the initial stretching-casting period, most babies need a minor procedure to alleviate tightness in the Achilles tendon. This allows the Achilles to grow to the proper length while your child’s foot is kept still in the final cast. Once the clubfoot is completely corrected, you child will need to wear special foot braces to ensure that the lower limbs continue growing straight and the deformity doesn’t recur.
For three months, your child will wear the brace almost constantly, with a small break to stretch his or her feet. Slowly your child will transition to only wearing the braces while sleeping. This final stage lasts three to four years to ensure that your child’s feet continue to grow straight and strong for normal walking.
Although parents are understandably concerned when their child has a birth defect, you don’t have to panic with a clubfoot diagnosis. The condition is treatable when you get care right away. Our team at Podiatry Associates, P.C. can help you through every step of the treatment process. Just use the web request form or call (303) 805-5156 to make an appointment with Dr. Oberholtzer-Classen or another member of our team at our Castle Pines or Parker, CO, offices.
Photo Credit: Lisa McDonald vie FreeDigitalPhotos.net