Alba Tooman

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Flat Foot Arch Pain Relief
Overview


Most people with flat feet have a condition that is referred to as a flexible flat foot. This is caused by excessive flexibility within the joints and ligaments of their foot and is often hereditary. This results in an over pronated (rolled in) position and is exaggerated by mechanical misalignment of the foot. This can be a very destructive position for the foot to function in and can cause a wide variety of foot, leg and lower back conditions. The appearance of flat feet may vary from foot to foot. Generally there is a collapse of the medial (inside/middle) long arch of the foot. This may occur mildly where the arch height drops slightly or can be a large movement that results in the entire length of the arch resting on the ground. The twisting and misalignment of the foot that occurs with arch collapse can cause excessive wear and tear of the foot joints and eventually pain.


Foot Arch Pain


Causes


Having low or no arches is normal for some people. In these cases, flat feet are usually inherited and the feet are fairly flexible. Occasionally, flat feet can be caused by an abnormality that develops in the womb, such as a problem with a joint or where two or more bones are fused together. This is known as tarsal coalition and results in the feet being flat and stiff. Flat feet that develop in later life can be caused by a condition that affects the joints, such as arthritis, or an injury to a muscle, tendon or joint in the foot.


Symptoms


Most flat feet do not cause pain or other problems. Children may have foot pain, ankle pain, or lower leg pain. They should be evaluated by a health care provider if this occurs. Symptoms in adults may include tired or achy feet after long periods of standing or playing sports.


Diagnosis


To come to a correct diagnosis, your podiatrist will examine your foot by using his or her fingers to look for a lump or stone bruise in the ball of your foot. He or she will examine your foot to look for deformities such as high or low arches, or to see if you have hammertoes. He or she may use x-rays, MRIs (magnetic resource imaging), and CT scans to rule out fractures and damage to ligaments, tendons, and other surrounding tissues. Your doctor will also inquire about your daily activities, symptoms, medical history, and family history. If you spend a lot of time running or jumping, you may be at a higher risk for pain in the bottom of your foot. These diagnostic tests will help your doctor come to a proper diagnosis and create an appropriate treatment plan.


Non Surgical Treatment


Rest is the most important thing you can do. Stay off your feet, or use a cane. Gently apply ice to the arch for at least 30 minutes, and repeat every 3 or 4 hours. Apply mild compression to the foot. Use a Fabriform PSC Foot and Ankle Strap to help support the arch, reduce swelling, and relieve pain and fatigue. This strap is easy to apply and adjust for a custom fit. Low profile allows it to fit in any shoe. Allows you to apply just the right amount of arch support/compression for your foot. Before stepping down after sleeping or resting, stretch the arch of your foot by pulling up on the ball of the foot and toes, as far as you comfortably can; hold the foot in this position for ten seconds. Repeat at least ten times. Consideration should also be given to the use of night splints. These are very effective for stretching the plantar fascia to relieve first weight bearing pain.


Arch Pain


Surgical Treatment


There are two types of bone procedure for flat feet, those where bone cuts and bone grafts are used to alter the alignment by avoiding any joint structures, or joint invasive procedures (called fusions or arthrodeses) that remove a joint to reshape the foot. With joint fusion procedures, there are those procedures that involve non-essential joints of the foot versus those that involve essential joints. All bone procedures have their place in flat foot surgery, and Dr. Blitz carefully evaluates each foot to preserve as much motion and function while obtaining proper and adequate alignment. In many cases a flat foot reconstruction involves both soft tissue procedures and bone procedures to rebuild and restore the arch. There are several joints in the arch of the foot that can collapse - and these joints are non-essential joints of the foot. This does not mean that they do not have a purpose, but rather become inefficient is providing a stable platform for function. As such, locking these non-essential non-functioning joints into place is commonly recommended. These joints are fused together with screws and/or plates. A heel bone that is no longer in proper position and pushed outwards away from the foot can be corrected with a bone cut and realignment procedure, so long as the displacement is not too significant. A benefit of this surgery is that it keeps the back portion of the foot mobile, and helps the surrounding tendons work for efficiently in maintaining the arch. In certain flat feet, the foot is deviated outwards and away from the midline of the body. Sometimes, this is due to the outer portion of the foot being shorter than the inner portion. Here bone graft can be added to the outer edge of the foot to lengthen the foot to swing the foot over into a corrected position. This procedure is most commonly performed in children and young adults. A bone graft is inserted into the top part of the arch to realign a component of the flat foot, medically known as forefoot varus or medial column elevatus. The back part of the foot (called the rearfoot complex) can be the cause (or source) of the flat foot or the simply affected by the flat foot foot. In simple terms, the back part of the foot can be made to flatten out due to arch problems - and vica versa for that matter. Dr. Blitz specifically identifies the cause of the flat foot as this will determine the best treatment plan, as each flat foot needs to be evaluated individually. The rearfoot is made up of three joints, and depending on the extent and most importantly the rigidity of these joints, they may require fusion to restore alignment. When all three joints require fusion - this call is a triple arthrodesis. For completeness, isolated fusion of any of the three joints can be performed (such as subtalar joint arthrodesis, talonavicular arthrodesis, and calcaneaocuboid joint arthrodesis). The medical decision making for isolated fusions is beyond the scope this article, but Dr. Blitz tries to avoid any rearfoot fusion for flexible feet because these are joints are essential joints of the foot, especially in younger people. Those in severe cases, it may be advantageous to provide re-alignment.


Prevention


Strap the arches into the anatomically correct positions with athletic tape and leave them like this for some time. If the fallen arches are an issue with the muscular structure, this may give the muscles an opportunity to strengthen. This is definitely not a fallen arches cure all the time but it can help prevent it more times than not. Ask a doctor or physical therapists to show you how to do this taping. Find shoes that fit. This may require that you get your foot measured and molded to ensure that the shoe will fit. Shoes that are too big, too tight or too short, may not directly cause the fallen arches, but they can assist with the damage to the area. These shoes should have thick cushioning inside and have plenty of room for your toes. Walk without shoes as much as possible. Shoes directly assist with weakening and distorting the arches of the feet so going without shoes can actually help strengthen your arches and prevent fallen arches. Walking on hard and bumpy surfaces barefooted makes the muscles in your feet strengthen in order to prevent injury. It is a coping mechanism by your body. Insert heel cups or insoles into the shoes that you wear the most. Many people wear uncomfortable shoes to work and these are the same shoes that cause their arches the most problems. Inserting the heel cups and insoles into these shoes can prevent fallen arches from occurring. Many people place these inserts into all their shoes to ensure support. Ask a medical professional, either your doctor or a physical therapist, about daily foot exercises that may keep the arches stronger than normal. Many times, you can find exercises and stretches on the Internet on various websites. Curling your toes tightly and rotating your feet will help strengthen your longitudinal arches. Relax your feet and shake them for a minute or so before you do any arch exercises. This will loosen the muscles in your feet that stay tight due to normal daily activities. Wear rigid soled sandals whenever possible to provide a strong support for your arches. Wooden soled sandals are the best ones if available. Walk or jog on concrete as much as you can. This will create a sturdy support for your arches. Running or walking in sandy areas or even on a treadmill, does not give rigid support. Instead, these surfaces absorb the step, offering no support for arches.
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Alba Tooman

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