Former pro athletes wearing therapy shoes designed to improve gait, relieve joint pain Former pro athletes wearing therapy shoes designed to improve gait, relieve joint pain From left, former NFL players Bart Oates, Bruce Harper, Jim Burt and Karl Nelson show off the "biomechanical devices" known as AposTherapy shoes. (Photo: AposTherapy)

Gait-changer proves a game-changer for osteoarthritis sufferers

Therapeutic shoes help former professional athletes and others retrain muscles, relieve pain.

A gait-changing therapy is proving to be a game-changer for patients around the globe, including some former professional athletes.

Israeli company AposTherapy was started in the 1990s and incorporated in 2005 by doctors Avi Elbaz and Amit Mor, who both came from the fields of orthopedics and sports medicine and saw a need for non-invasive treatment of a wide array of “orthopedic conditions.”

They designed a therapeutic pair of shoes to be worn by the patient during everyday, routine tasks. The shoes, which look like they have two tennis ball halves attached to the bottom, essentially help retrain the patient’s gait, changing how pressure or strain is put on particular joints.

“AposTherapy enables a patient to improve the way they walk by re-educating the brain and muscles to establish a more symmetrical walking pattern,” Dr. Mor told From The Grapevine. 

Because no two patients are the same or suffer the same maladies, Mor said each patient is treated individually and their footgear is calibrated accordingly. “Combining correct functional-body alignment with micro-instability represents a new and unique approach in the treatment of knee pain,” Mor said, adding that it is estimated one in two people in the United States will develop some form of osteoarthritis (OA) in their lifetime. “This treatment also gives individuals the power to take an active role in achieving lasting relief from their condition.”

AposTherapy’s treatment also involves educating the patient. “Our philosophy is to empower patients by enhancing their understanding of their condition and the underlying causes of their symptoms,” Mor said. “This knowledge … allows the patient to take control over their therapy and progress.”

And patients are very literally in control of their rehabilitation, as much of the therapy involves what Mor calls a “unique biomechanical device” – or what some might simply refer to as shoes.

Mor and his colleague, Dr. Elbaz, discovered that past diagnoses of OA that focused on the deterioration of bone and cartilage may have missed the bigger picture. Instead, Mor said that it’s not solely deterioration causing a patient joint pain, but rather that the pain is “originating from faulty function of the muscles and the nerves around the joint.”

“The importance of the muscles and nerves in maintaining the function and health of the joint is often underestimated when attempting to understand joint pain and deterioration,” Mor said. For instance, what has long been diagnosed as “wear and tear” in regard to knee injuries is actually a failure of the muscles to provide the proper support. “The muscles and instructions they receive from the brain to contract and protect the affected joint play a major role in the aggravation of the condition,” he explained.

To date, more than 50,000 patients have been treated at one of AposTherapy’s dozen international locations, including the first one in Herzliya, Israel, as well as others in Singapore, the United Kingdom and the United States. Some of those patients have been former professional athletes, including several NFL veterans like former center Bart Oates, former offensive tackle Karl Nelson, former running backs Ottis Anderson and former nose tackle Jim Burt, to name just a few. “Over the years, we have treated many top athletes around the world,” Mor said.

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