A fallen arch or flatfoot is known medically as pes planus. The foot loses the gently curving arch on the inner side of the sole, just in front of the heel. If this arch is flattened only when standing and returns when the foot is lifted off the ground, the condition is called flexible pes planus or flexible flatfoot. If the arch disappears in both foot positions, standing and elevated, the condition is called rigid pes planus or rigid flatfoot.
The plantar fascia is a thick, fibrous band which runs along the sole of the feet. It helps to support the foot arches and transmits forces through the foot as you move. Plantar fasciitis is one of the most common causes of foot arch pain. The most common problem to develop here is plantar fasciitis. If there is too much strain on the plantar fascia (e.g. from long periods on your feet, suddenly increasing activity levels or your foot position is altered), the plantar fascia becomes inflamed and swollen. It is often accompanied by a bone spur, excess growth of the bone which develops due to repeated tension on the area where the plantar fascia attaches to the bone. Plantar fasciitis is one of the most common causes of foot arch pain. It is usually painful after activity or prolonged rest e.g. first thing in the morning. A less common problem with the plantar fascia which casues foot arch pain is plantar fibromatosis. This is when a small nodular growth develops on the plantar fascia, usually in the middle of the foot arch. It often causes pain when walking due to pressure through the lump.
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.
In people with flat feet, the instep of the foot comes in contact with the ground when standing. To diagnose the problem, the health care provider will ask you to stand on your toes. If an arch forms,the flat foot is called flexible. You will not need any more tests or treatment. If the arch does not form with toe-standing (called rigid flat feet), or if there is pain, other tests may be needed, including a CT scan to look at the bones in the foot. MRI scan to look at the tendons in the foot. X-ray of the foot.
Non Surgical Treatment
The most effective treatment for foot arch pain and strain is to use an arch support. The arch support sits under the foot and stops the arch of the foot from collapsing, thereby preventing the stretch of the arch pad which causes pain and discomfort. Wearing an arch support in slippers or house shoes can also prevent pain in the mornings when discomfort it most common and severe. Arch supports usually relieve symptoms within a few days.
In cases where cast immobilization, orthoses and shoe therapy have failed, surgery is the next alternative. The goal of surgery and non-surgical treatment is to eliminate pain, stop progression of the deformity and improve mobility of the patient. Opinions vary as to the best surgical treatment for adult acquired flatfoot. Procedures commonly used to correct the condition include tendon debridement, tendon transfers, osteotomies (cutting and repositioning of bone) and joint fusions.
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.