What Are Fallen Arches

Overview

Flat Foot

Flat feet can lead to extreme stress or inflammation of the plantar fascia, possibly causing severe discomfort and leading to other foot problems. Without properly supported arches, simple movement can pull your body out of alignment and cause stress, strain and fatigue to your lower body.




Causes

Inflammatory arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis, can cause a painful flatfoot. This type of arthritis attacks not only the cartilage in the joints, but also the ligaments that support the foot. Inflammatory arthritis not only causes pain, but also causes the foot to change shape and become flat. The arthritis can affect the back of the foot or the middle of foot, both of which can result in a fallen arch. An injury to the ligaments in the foot can cause the joints to fall out of alignment. The ligaments support the bones and prevent them from moving. If the ligaments are torn, the foot will become flat and painful. This more commonly occurs in the middle of the foot (Lisfranc injury), but can also occur in the back of the foot. In addition to ligament injuries, fractures and dislocations of the bones in the midfoot can also lead to a flatfoot deformity. People with diabetes or with a nerve problem that limits normal feeling in the feet, can have arch collapse. This type of arch collapse is typically more severe than that seen in patients with normal feeling in their feet. This is because patients do not feel pain as the arch collapses. In addition to the ligaments not holding the bones in place, the bones themselves can sometimes fracture and disintegrate, without the patient feeling any pain. This may result in a severely deformed foot that is very challenging to correct with surgery. Special shoes or braces are the best method for dealing with this problem.




Symptoms

Arches can be seen as ?rolling downward? or collapsing when walking. Pain may present in lower back, hips or knees. Pain may be present on the bottom of the heels, within the arch, within the ankles or even the forefoot. Swelling can occur. Pain may occur in the anterior leg muscles.




Diagnosis

You can always give yourself the ?wet test? described above to see whether you have flat feet. Most people who do not notice their flat feet or have no pain associated with them do not think to see a foot doctor. Flat feet can lead to additional problems such as stiffness or pain, however, especially if the condition appears out of nowhere. If you think you may have flat feet, you should seek medical attention to ensure there are no additional issues to worry about. Your doctor will be able to diagnose you with a number of tests. For example, he or she may have you walk around, stand still, or stand on your tiptoes while you are being examined. Your doctor may also examine your foot?s shape and functionality. It?s important to let your foot doctor know about your medical and family history. In some cases, your doctor may order imaging tests such as x-rays or an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) to determine a cause of your flat foot. If tarsal coalition is suspected in children, a CT scan is often ordered.




Non Surgical Treatment

If the flat foot is rigid and causing problems, you will be referred to a foot specialist. Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Options include the following. Physical Therapy and Exercises. Physical therapy may relieve discomfort. You may be given a specific stretching and strength program. You may also have treatment to help manage the discomfort. Exercises can help with the strength of the surrounding muscles. It may relieve some of the pressure in the foot. Orthotics are shoe inserts that support the foot. These inserts may help to reduce pain and disability in some people. In mild cases, a well-fitting pair of shoes with arch support may be all that is needed. Flat feet caused by nerve or muscle disease may need special braces. Fallen arches are usually treated using stretching exercises, physical therapy and medication (to reduce inflammation). In extreme cases however, surgery is recommended.




Surgical Treatment

Acquired Flat Foot

Since there are many different causes of flatfoot, the types of flatfoot reconstruction surgery are best categorized by the conditions. Posterior tibial tendon dysfunction. In this condition, the tendon connecting the calf muscle to the inner foot is torn or inflamed. Once the tendon is damaged it no longer can serve its main function of supporting the arch of the foot. Flatfoot is the main result of this type of condition and can be treated by the following flatfoot reconstruction surgeries. Lengthening of the Achilles tendon. Otherwise known as gastrocnemius recession, this procedure is used to lengthen the calf muscles in the leg. This surgery treats flatfoot and prevents it from returning in the future. This procedure is often combined with other surgeries to correct posterior tibial tendon dysfunction. Cleaning the tendon. Also known as tenosynovectomy, this procedure is used in the earlier and less severe stages of posterior tibial tendon dysfunction. It is performed before the arch collapses and while the tendon is only mildly affected. The inflamed tissue is cleaned away and removed from the remaining healthy tendon. Tendon transfer. This procedure is done to correct flatfoot and reform the lost arch in the foot. During the procedure, the diseased tendon is removed and replaced by tendon from another area of the foot. If the tendon is only partially damaged, the inflamed part is cleaned and removed then attached to a new tendon. Cutting and shifting bones. Also called an osteotomy, this procedure consists of cutting and reconstructing bones in the foot to reconstruct the arch. The heel bone and the midfoot are most likely reshaped to achieve this desired result. A bone graft may be used to fuse the bones or to lengthen the outside of the foot. Temporary instrumentation such as screws and plates can also be used to hold the bones together while they heal.




Prevention

Wear Supportive Footwear. Spend the money it takes to get proper fitting and quality footwear with good arch supports. Most sufferers of fallen arches and plantar fasciitis are born with high arches that sag as they get older. Good footwear can prevent this from becoming a problem. Flat feet, however, can become just as problematic. So, really we should all be wearing good footwear to avoid this potentially painful condition. Take It Easy. If your heel starts to hurt, take a rest. If the pain doesn?t go away after several days of resting, it may be time to see a podiatrist. Orthotics. Special insoles to support the arch of the foot can provide some much needed help. You can buy these at your local drugstore (not recommended), or you can have them specially made and custom fit for your feet. It can take awhile to get just the right one for your foot, but sometimes it can be just what you needed. Weight Control. Yes, maintaining a sensible diet with your ideal weight can be beneficial in many ways. It makes sense to think that the more weight your arches are supporting, the more easily they will fall and become painful.
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