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Combating Fallen Arches

Overview

Acquired Flat Feet

We often think of fallen arches as a cause of foot pain, but they also stress your spine. In fact, fallen arches often contribute to unresolved or recurrent back pain. Excessive foot pronation (rolling in) can produce a short leg, pelvic unleveling, and increased curvature in your spine. Fallen arches place stress and strain on your feet, knees, hips, and spine. A custom orthotic can be a key part of your treatment plan in helping you get rid of your pain.

Causes

There is a lack of normal arch development, probably due to inherent ligamentous laxity. Around 20% of adults have Pes planus. The majority have a flexible flat foot and no symptoms. However, if there is also heel cord contracture, there may be symptoms (see 'Contributing factors', below). Loss of support for the arch. Dysfunction of the tibialis posterior tendon, a common and important cause. Tear of the spring ligament (rare). Tibialis anterior rupture (rare). A neuropathic foot, e.g from diabetes, polio, or other neuropathies. Degenerative changes in foot and ankle joints. Inflammatory arthropathy, eg rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis. Fractures. Bony abnormalities, eg tarsal coalition.

Symptoms

The majority of children and adults with flexible flatfeet never have symptoms. However, their toes may tend to point outward as they walk, a condition called out-toeing. A person who develops symptoms usually complains of tired, aching feet, especially after prolonged standing or walking. Symptoms of rigid flatfoot vary depending on the cause of the foot problem. Congenital vertical talus. The foot of a newborn with congenital vertical talus typically has a convex rocker-bottom shape. This is sometimes combined with an actual fold in the middle of the foot. The rare person who is diagnosed at an older age often has a "peg-leg" gait, poor balance and heavy calluses on the soles where the arch would normally be. If a child with congenital vertical talus has a genetic disorder, additional symptoms often are seen in other parts of the body. Tarsal coalition. Many people have no symptoms, and the condition is discovered only by chance when an X-ray of the foot is obtained for some other problem. When symptoms occur, there is usually foot pain that begins at the outside rear of the foot. The pain tends to spread upward to the outer ankle and to the outside portion of the lower leg. Symptoms usually start during a child's teenage years and are aggravated by playing sports or walking on uneven ground. In some cases, the condition is discovered when a child is evaluated for unusually frequent ankle sprains. Lateral subtalar dislocation. Because this often is caused by a traumatic, high-impact injury, the foot may be significantly swollen and deformed. There also may be an open wound with bruising and bleeding.

Diagnosis

Runners are often advised to get a gait analysis to determine what type of foot they have and so what kind of running shoe they require. This shouldn?t stop at runners. Anyone that plays sports could benefit from this assessment. Sports shoes such as football boots, astro trainers and squash trainers often have very poor arch support and so for the 60-80% of us who do overpronate or have flat feet they are left unsupported. A change of footwear or the insertion of arch support insoles or orthotics can make a massive difference to your risk of injury, to general aches and pains and even to your performance.

fallen arches surgery

Non Surgical Treatment

When pain results from a fallen arch, the physician may prescribe these. Rest and ice. A brace to help support the fallen arch. Physical therapy to strengthen and stretch the foot. Orthotics (arch supports) to compensate for a fallen arch. The physician may tell the patient to choose shoes that have proper arch supports and avoid non-supportive shoes such as flip-flops. If obesity contributed to the fallen arch, the patient should lose weight.

Surgical Treatment

Flat Feet

This is rare and usually only offered if patients have significant abnormalities in their bones or muscles. Treatments include joint fusion, reshaping the bones in the foot, and occasionally moving around tendons in the foot to help balance out the stresses (called tendon transfer). Flat feet and fallen arches are common conditions that are in most cases asymptomatic. However, in patients who do have symptoms, treatments are available that can help reduce pain and promote efficient movement. Orthotic devices are well recognised as an excellent treatment and podiatrists can offer these different treatment modalities as individualised treatments for patients.
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