Flat feet, also known as ?fallen arches? are often viewed as problematic simply because they look abnormal, the main arch of the foot, the medial longitudinal arch, has collapsed. Though flat feet are by no means normal, they are often the result of some other underlying condition or weakness rather than a problem with the actual arch itself that has collapsed. Conventional treatment involving foot support either via supportive footwear, orthotics, or some other bracing system is usually more disadvantageous than beneficial and surgery is rarely the answer.
The more common specific causes of arch pain (arch strain) tend to be Plantar fasciitis (strain of the plantar fascia - a strong ligament that supports the arch. Foot strain from a pronated / flat foot or high arched foot. Osteoarthritis of the joints in the mid-foot. Poor or improper footwear (high heels or athletic shotes). Tarsal tunnel syndrome (a pinched nerve at the ankle that refers to pain in the arch). There are two arches in each foot. The longitudinal arch runs the length of your foot, and the transverse arch runs across the width of your foot. The arches are made up of ligaments, which keep the bones of your foot in place. Arch pain can occur in one or both arches, but occurs most commonly in the longitudinal arch. If this arch pain (arch strain) condition is left untreated and strain on the longitudinal arch continues, a bony protrusion may develop, known as a heel spur. It is important to treat the condition and seek a proper consultation.
Pain and tenderness associated with plantar fascia strains are usually felt on the bottom of the foot and may manifest either as a specific or general area of tenderness. Plantar fascia pain may be increased or decreased by stretching of the arch. Generally, in mild cases of plantar fasciitis, the pain will decrease as the soft tissues of the foot "warm up"; however, pain may increase as use of the foot increases. In more severe cases of plantar fasciitis, pain may increase when the arch is stressed. A more specific pain (point tenderness) is an indicator that something is wrong in that specific area. Pain with movement of the affected area is also an indicator of the particular body part affected.
The medical practitioner will examine how the muscles of your foot function. These tests may involve holding or moving your foot and ankle against resistance; you may also asked to stand, walk, or even run. Pain caused by movements may indicate the cause of the pain. The nerves in the foot will be tested to make sure no injury has occurred there. An x-ray, MRI, or bone scan of the foot and arch may be taken to determine if there are changes in the makeup of the bone.
Non Surgical Treatment
In mild cases of flatfoot the first line of treatment is often custom orthotics. In patients with a flexible deformity, supporting the arch with a custom arch support will take the strain off the joints and muscles, bringing the heel into a corrected position. Wider shoe gear may be prescribed to accommodate foot pain and motion and stretching exercises to decrease stiffness and stress on the foot. In cases of severe collapse, especially if the patient is not a good surgical candidate or has a mild tear, a brace may be made to accommodate the foot and ankle, thus supporting the arch and ankle.
As with most surgeries, patients and physicians should consider the surgery only after other, less invasive treatments have proven unproductive. Indications for surgery include Pain. Inability to function. Failure to improve after a six-month course of specific, directed physical therapy. Failure to improve after using arch supports, orthotics, or ankle and foot bracing. Once patients are at that point, the good news is that the procedure has considerably better outcomes than more traditional flat foot surgery. In the past, surgeons would realign and fuse the three hind joints, which would cause patients to lose motion, leaving them with a significantly stiff hind foot, With these newer procedures, if the foot is still flexible, surgeons can realign it and usually restore a close-to-normal or functional range of motion in the joints.
It is possible to prevent arch pain by wearing well-fitting shoes while performing any physical activity. Many times doctors will suggest a therapeutic shoe with a higher heel to relieve the pressure on the achilles tendon and also the arch muscle (plantar fasciitis). People with arch pain suffer from regular flare-ups of pain. However there is no risk to others as this is not a contagious condition.
Calf Stretching in Bed. As you may already know, the first few steps out of bed in the morning can be the worst of the day. Those first few steps can be enough to reaggravate your condition putting you into a cycle of inflammation and pain. The best way to help break that cycle is to stretch your calf before taking those first steps in the morning. When the muscles in your calf are tight, they pull on the heel bone, making your plantar fascia very taut and prone to injury. To help loosen those muscles, take a towel or belt and loop it around the ball of your foot. Keeping your leg straight, gently pull towards your body until you feel a stretch in the lower part of your leg. Hold that for 30 seconds and repeat up to 5 times before taking your first step out of bed. Plantar Fascia Stretching. Loosening up the tissues that are irritated probably makes sense to you, but you may not know how to do so. Luckily, there?s a very simple way. All you have to do is pull your toes up with your hand until you feel a stretch along the ball of your foot. You may feel the stretch anywhere from the ball of your foot to your heel. Holding this position for 30 seconds a few times can make a world of difference in your pain levels. Calf Stretching. I know, it probably seems like overkill, but stretching out the muscles in the lower leg is an integral step to recovery. There are two main muscles in the lower leg that attach to the heel, so we?ll work on stretching them both out. Stand against a wall and slide one leg back, pushing the heel down towards the floor (first picture). When you feel a stretch in the lower part of your leg, hold it for 30 seconds. After those 30 seconds are up, bend your knees until a deeper stretch is felt a bit lower in the leg (second photo). Again, hold this stretch for 30 seconds and repeat this until you?ve done it 3 times on each leg. Who doesn?t love a good massage? I suppose you could pay for someone to rub out the tissues in the bottom of your foot, but if you?re looking for a cheaper alternative, look no further than the humble tennis ball. Placing a tennis ball on the ground and gently rolling it under foot for a few minutes can help loosen up your plantar fascia, making it much less likely to become irritated. Put enough pressure on the ball to get a deep massage. You may feel some soreness, but back off if you feel any pain.Tennis Ball Massage While using the tennis ball is great for keeping things loose, sometimes it?s worth doing some icing at the same time for some inflammation control. Freezing a water bottle and rolling it under your foot for 10 minutes at the end of the day can be a very effective way to keep inflammation in check while staying loose. It might not be the most comfortable thing in the world, but ?Brrr? is better than ?Ouch? any day. One thing to keep in mind is that while these tips have been proven to work, they?re not an instant fix. It can take a few weeks of consistency with them before your pain levels begin to change. If you?re not seeing any improvement after making an honest effort, it may be time to look into some different treatment methods with your doctor such as formal PT, orthotics, a weight-loss plan, or others.