Polly Tindol

Resolving Feet Dilemmas

A Way To Diagnose Fallen Arches

Overview

Flat Foot

Fallen arches or flat feet is a condition in which the arch or instep of the foot collapses and comes in contact with the ground. In some individuals, this arch never develops while they are growing. Flat feet (also called pes planus or fallen arches) is a formal reference to a medical condition in which the arch of the foot collapses, with the entire sole of the foot coming into complete or near-complete contact with the ground. In some individuals (an estimated 20-30% of the general population) the arch simply never develops in one foot (unilaterally) or both feet (bilaterally).

Causes

Just as there are many different causes of flat feet, there are also many different treatment options. The most important aspect of treatment is determining the exact type or underlying cause of flat feet that you have. Foot and ankle specialists can determine this through thorough clinical examination and special imaging studies (e.g., x-rays, computed tomography, and/or magnetic resonance imaging). Conservative treatment is effective in the vast majority of flat foot cases, and consists of things such as insoles, splints, manipulation, or casting. Surgery is required much less frequently, and is reserved only for some of the severe types of flat foot that do not respond to conservative therapy. You may have noticed that one common element in the conservative treatment of all types of flat feet is orthoses. Many companies now manufacture semi-custom orthotic devices that not only improve comfort, but also seek to control abnormal motion of the foot. These over-the-counter inserts, in the $25 to $50 range, are an economical treatment that may help a majority of people. Unfortunately, these semi-custom devices will not fit everyone perfectly, and those of us who differ too much from the average may respond better to custom orthotic devices. Custom inserts are prescribed by your foot and ankle specialist and are made individually from either a physical or computerized impression of your feet. The only drawback of custom orthoses is their cost, ranging anywhere from $300 to $500. Many physicians recommend trying over-the-counter inserts first (and even keep them in stock) as they may save their patients large sums of money.

Symptoms

Pain along the inside of the foot and ankle, where the tendon lies. This may or may not be associated with swelling in the area. Pain that is worse with activity. High-intensity or high-impact activities, such as running, can be very difficult. Some patients can have trouble walking or standing for a long time. Pain on the outside of the ankle. When the foot collapses, the heel bone may shift to a new position outwards. This can put pressure on the outside ankle bone. The same type of pain is found in arthritis in the back of the foot. The symptoms of PTTD may include pain, swelling, a flattening of the arch, and an inward rolling of the ankle. As the condition progresses, the symptoms will change. For example, when PTTD initially develops, there is pain on the inside of the foot and ankle (along the course of the tendon). In addition, the area may be red, warm, and swollen. Later, as the arch begins to flatten, there may still be pain on the inside of the foot and ankle. But at this point, the foot and toes begin to turn outward and the ankle rolls inward. As PTTD becomes more advanced, the arch flattens even more and the pain often shifts to the outside of the foot, below the ankle. The tendon has deteriorated considerably and arthritis often develops in the foot. In more severe cases, arthritis may also develop in the ankle.

Diagnosis

Your doctor examines your feet to determine two things, whether you have flat feet and the cause or causes. An exam may include the following steps, Checking your health history for evidence of illnesses or injuries that could be linked to flat feet or fallen arches, Looking at the soles of your shoes for unusual wear patterns, Observing the feet and legs as you stand and do simple movements, such as raising up on your toes, Testing the strength of muscles and tendons, including other tendons in the feet and legs, such as the Achilles tendon or the posterior tibial tendon, Taking X-rays or an MRI of your feet.

pes planus radiology

Non Surgical Treatment

In many cases of PTTD, treatment can begin with non-surgical approaches that may include orthotic devices or bracing. To give your arch the support it needs, your foot and ankle surgeon may provide you with an ankle brace or a custom orthotic device that fits into the shoe. Immobilization. Sometimes a short-leg cast or boot is worn to immobilize the foot and allow the tendon to heal, or you may need to completely avoid all weight-bearing for a while. Physical therapy. Ultrasound therapy and exercises may help rehabilitate the tendon and muscle following immobilization. Medications. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, help reduce the pain and inflammation. Shoe modifications. Your foot and ankle surgeon may advise changes to make with your shoes and may provide special inserts designed to improve arch support.

Surgical Treatment

Acquired Flat Foot

Generally one of the following procedures is used to surgically repair a flat foot or fallen arch. Arthrodesis. One or more of your bones in the foot or ankle are fused together. Osteotomy. Correcting alignment by cutting and reshaping a bone. Excision. Removing a bone or a bone spur. Synovectomy. Cleaning the sheath that covers the tendon. Tendon transfer. Using a piece of one tendon to lengthen or replace another. Arthroereisis. placing a small device in the subtalar joint to limit motion. For most people, treatment is successful, regardless of the cause, although the cause does does play a major role in determining your prognosis. Some causes do not need treatment, while others require a surgical fix.

Prevention

Sit up straight in a chair with your feet flat on the ground. Scrunch up the toes of one foot as if you are trying to grab hold of the floor then use your toes to drag your foot a small distance forwards. Do this a couple of times on each foot, but don?t use your leg muscles to push your foot forward -- the movement should come solely from the muscles in your feet. Sit in a chair and place a cleaning cloth, towel or small ball on the floor at your feet. Use the toes of one foot to grasp the object and lift it off the floor. This action will require you to clench your toes and contract your arch. Once you have lifted the object a little way off the floor, try to throw it in the air and catch it by stretching your toes and arch out and upwards. Repeat the exercise several times on both feet. Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you then bend your knees out to either side and place the soles of your feet together so your legs form a diamond. Hold on to your ankles and, keeping your heels together at all times, separate your feet so your toes point out to either side. Open and close your feet in this way several times, making sure your little toes stay in contact with the floor throughout the exercise. Starting in the same position, try separating your heels, keeping your toes together at all times.
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