What is the difference between a podiatrist and an orthotist?
Last update: 2 April 2021
Just like the podiatrist, the orthotist is also responsible for treating a variety of foot problems.
However, the podiatrist’s role focuses more on diagnosing and carrying out the treatment while the orthotist’s duties are reserved to one particular step of the process.
Their roles may be different, but the podiatrist and orthotist regularly collaborate in the treatment of foot conditions.
Let’s see what are the main differences between a podiatrist and an orthotist.
An orthotist takes care of making custom foot orthotics, as suggested by their name.
Most orthotists have a college diploma in orthotic and prosthetic technology.
However, this qualification is not enough to assess the foot, make a diagnosis or even prescribe foot orthoses.
Only the podiatrist and the physician are authorized to perform these functions under Quebec law.
Unlike an orthotist, podiatrists must possess a doctorate in podiatric medicine in order to practice.
Therefore, we consider the orthotist to be more of a technician who supports the work of the podiatrist.
An orthotist’s technical aptitudes
The orthotist can only perform a small portion of the podiatrist’s duties, however, they play a critical role in the fabrication of foot orthoses.
The orthotic technician is actually authorized to perform the following actions:
- Fabricating orthotics as prescribed by the podiatrist;
- Fitting orthotics, if necessary;
- Repairing prescribed orthotic insoles;
- Contributing to the evaluation of a patient when they are immobilized;
- Selling foot orthoses as well as therapeutic aids such as splints.
Medical treatments provided by the podiatrist
As it has been demonstrated, the orthotist is only partially involved in the healing process for your feet.
The podiatrist, on the other hand, is a certified medical professional who can:
- Analyze problematic symptoms;
- Order exams such as digital x-rays, foot ultrasound imaging, postural assessments and 2D/3D scanning;
- Make a diagnosis;
- Establish an intervention plan to treat the diagnosed problem(s);
- Prescribe medication;
- Perform minor surgery on the foot and toes;
- Perform invasive surgical procedures in some cases.
Unlike the orthotist, who is limited to foot orthoses, the podiatrist has a full arsenal of tools to treat the feet.
These treatments include:
- Manual foot therapy;
- Cortisone injection;
- Therapeutic laser treatment;
- Shock wave therapy;
- The application of a therapeutic tape;
- Treatment of plantar warts;
- Removal of corns and calluses;
- Matricectomy (removal of the ingrown nail).
In terms of orthotics, the podiatrist is the one who takes the final impression, prescribes it and measures the foot with a podograph and a three-dimensional scanner.
PiedReseau lets you benefit from comprehensive podiatric expertise
Both the podiatrist and the orthotist can be involved in the treatment of your foot pain.
The former may perform a full assessment of your plantar condition and treat your problem to the best of their ability.
The latter may not be able to determine what ailment is affecting you, but they may shape and fit your orthotics based on the podiatrist’s recommendation.
Before choosing the expertise of an orthotist, it is important to consider the skills and therapeutic tools they can provide.
Do you need custom foot orthoses? Consider reaching out to PiedReseau podiatrists.