Coping With Fallen Arches

Overview

Flat Foot

Some people have always had flat feet from a young age. Unfortunately as people reach their fifties they will suddenly have one foot with a flatter arch than the other foot. This situation is termed adult acquired flatfoot. Adult acquired flatfoot is a painful condition occurring in one foot. The common patient profile is a female over the age of 50 with pre-existing flatfeet, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and obesity. All of these underlying problems will lead to a weakening of the support structures of the arch. If you have adult acquired flat foot you will not be able to lift your heel off the ground while standing on one leg. Adult acquired flatfoot may develop due to trauma or degeneration of major tendons ankle & foot. Weakness or paralysis of leg muscles can also create a flatfoot deformity. Adult acquired flat foot can be treated with physical therapies, motion control running shoes or hiking boots, custom foot orthoses, and ankle foot orthoses.


Causes

Flat feet can be caused by injury, aging, and weight gain. They can cause pain in the feet and may lead to pain in other parts of the body such as the ankles, knees, or hips. For this reason, it behooves us to treat fallen arches. The question becomes how to do so.


Symptoms

Some people have fallen arches, and they aren?t even aware of it, fallen arches are sometimes asymptomatic and do not always cause pain. However, for others, the following symptoms may be present. Foot pain, particularly in the arches or heels, leg or back pain, feet feel tired quickly, swelling in the feet and difficulty moving the feet.


Diagnosis

An examination of the foot is enough for the health care provider to diagnose flat foot. However, the cause must be determined. If an arch develops when the patient stands on his or her toes, the flat foot is called flexible and no treatment or further work-up is necessary. If there is pain associated with the foot or if the arch does not develop with toe-standing, x-rays are necessary. If a tarsal coalition is suspected, a CT scan is often ordered. If a posterior tibial tendon injury is suspected, your health care provider may recommend an MRI.


Non Surgical Treatment

If the flat foot is rigid and causing problems, you will be referred to a foot specialist. Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Options include the following. Physical Therapy and Exercises. Physical therapy may relieve discomfort. You may be given a specific stretching and strength program. You may also have treatment to help manage the discomfort. Exercises can help with the strength of the surrounding muscles. It may relieve some of the pressure in the foot. Orthotics are shoe inserts that support the foot. These inserts may help to reduce pain and disability in some people. In mild cases, a well-fitting pair of shoes with arch support may be all that is needed. Flat feet caused by nerve or muscle disease may need special braces. Fallen arches are usually treated using stretching exercises, physical therapy and medication (to reduce inflammation). In extreme cases however, surgery is recommended.


Surgical Treatment

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

It?s time to take a long hard look at what?s in your closet. Now is the time to toss out shoes that are well worn. You also need to say good-bye to thin-soled shoes that offer zero arch support. If you?re overweight, fallen arches may be a sign the universe is trying to tell you something. You need to lose weight, and odds are, fallen arches are but one of many physical discomforts you are experiencing.


After Care

Patients may go home the day of surgery or they may require an overnight hospital stay. The leg will be placed in a splint or cast and should be kept elevated for the first two weeks. At that point, sutures are removed. A new cast or a removable boot is then placed. It is important that patients do not put any weight on the corrected foot for six to eight weeks following the operation. Patients may begin bearing weight at eight weeks and usually progress to full weightbearing by 10 to 12 weeks. For some patients, weightbearing requires additional time. After 12 weeks, patients commonly can transition to wearing a shoe. Inserts and ankle braces are often used. Physical therapy may be recommended. There are complications that relate to surgery in general. These include the risks associated with anesthesia, infection, damage to nerves and blood vessels, and bleeding or blood clots. Complications following flatfoot surgery may include wound breakdown or non-union (incomplete healing of the bones). These complications often can be prevented with proper wound care and rehabilitation. Occasionally, patients may notice some discomfort due to prominent hardware. Removal of hardware can be done at a later time if this is an issue. The overall complication rates for flatfoot surgery are low.

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