What Can You Do About Fallen Arches?

posted on 02 Apr 2015 09:04 by wirygash598
Overview

Flat Foot

In a normal foot, the tendons in your foot and lower leg work together to form the arch. When the tendons all pull properly, your foot forms a moderate, normal arch. When the tendons do not pull together properly, there is little or no arch, called flat foot or fallen arch. Children are born with flat feet. In infants and toddlers, prior to walking, the longitudinal arch is not developed and flat feet are normal. As children begin standing on their toes, the muscles start to develop and an arch appears. The arch continues to develop throughout childhood, and by adulthood most people have developed normal arches. But in some cases the arch doesn?t form completely.




Causes

There are many reasons why flat feet develop. Here?s a look at some of the most common causes. Genetics, weak arches, injury, arthritis, diabetes, age, wear and tear on feet, tibialis posterior (ruptured tendon). Nervous system or muscle diseases such as cerebral palsy. Weakness and tightness of other muscles and tendons higher up in the lower extremity. The way our arches form depends on several factors. Our feet are complex structures that comprise twenty-six bones, thirty-three joints, and more than 100 muscles, tendons, and ligaments each. Each foot forms two arches. The arch that runs from the heel to the toe is known as the longitudinal arch, while the one that runs the width is known as the transverse arch. Ligaments (fibrous tissues) give our arches their shape and hold our bones together. The plantar fascia (the long, strong band of connective tissue that runs along the sole of your foot) and muscles add secondary support. There are also foot pads that absorb impact and assist with weight-bearing functions. How these things intertwine and work together determines the formation of our arches. A structural abnormality or injury to one of these components can result in flatfoot.




Symptoms

Structural problems in your feet like fallen arches can alter your walking pattern, running pattern and cause pain throughout your body. Clear and accurate assessment of the mechanics of your lower limbs is key to understanding the profound effect that subtle faults in your foot, ankle, knee and hip alignment can cause.




Diagnosis

Determining whether you have fallen arches may be as easy as looking at the shape of the middle bottom of your foot. Is there any kind of arch there? If you cannot find any kind of arch, you may have a flat foot. There are, however, other ways to decide in case you're still not sure. Another way to figure out if you have flat feet is to look at a few pairs of your shoes. Where do you see the most wear on the heels? If you notice significant wear in the heel and the ball of the foot extending to the big toe, this means you are overpronating. Overpronators roll their feet too far inward and commonly have fallen arches. To figure out if you have flat feet, you can also do an easy test. Get the bottoms of your feet wet and then step on to a piece of paper carefully. Step off the paper and take a look at the print your foot made. If your print looks like the entire bottom of a foot, your feet are flat. People with an arch will be missing part of the foot on their print since the arch is elevated off of the paper. Regular visits to your podiatrist are highly recommended.




Non Surgical Treatment

The treatment your podiatrist recommends will depend upon the trouble and pain you?re experiencing. Custom shoe inserts (orthotics) are most often recommended and are quite effective. Stretching exercises to loosen and strengthen the supporting tendons may also be recommended. Orthotic devices or bracing. To give your arch the support it needs, your foot and ankle surgeon may recommend an ankle brace or a custom orthotic device that fits into your shoe to support the arch. A short-leg cast or boot may be worn to immobilize the foot and allow the tendon to heal. Ultrasound therapy and stretching exercises may help rehabilitate the tendon and muscle following immobilization. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, help reduce the pain and inflammation. Your foot and ankle surgeon may recommend changes in your footwear.




Surgical Treatment

Flat Feet

Rarely does the physician use surgery to correct a foot that is congenitally flat, which typically does not cause pain. If the patient has a fallen arch that is painful, though, the foot and ankle physicians at Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush may perform surgery to reconstruct the tendon and "lift up" the fallen arch. This requires a combination of tendon re-routing procedures, ligament repairs, and bone cutting or fusion procedures.




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.