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Looking After Fallen Arches

Overview

Adult Acquired Flat Feet

When standing, most people have a gap under the arch of their foot. Flat feet, or pes planus is the term used to describe collapsed arches, meaning that the entire sole of the foot rests partially or completely on the ground. A simple way to check to see if you have flat feet is to wet your feet and step onto a dry, flat surface. Step away from your footprint; if you see a complete footprint, you more than likely have flat feet. If you only see toes, the pads of your feet, and your heels, you probably do not have flat feet. People who have flat feet usually roll their feet over to the inner side when they walk. The feet may even appear to point outward because of this movement. In most cases, the condition cannot be prevented.

Causes

Genetic predisposition. Faulty foot mechanics, e.g. excessive pronation. Abnormal bony architecture. Laxity of ligaments. Neuro-muscular disease. Trauma to the leg muscles or major tendons. Inflammatory diseases of the joints e.g. Rheumatoid arthritis. Surgical procedures on the leg and ankle. Limb length inequality. Tight Achilles tendon.

Symptoms

It?s possible to have fallen arches and experience no symptoms whatsoever. But many people do notice some problems with this condition. Their feet, back and legs ache. Standing on their toes is difficult, if not impossible, and they note swelling around the arch and heel.

Diagnosis

If you notice that your feet are flat, but you?re not really experiencing any pain, then you?re probably okay to go without a visit to the podiatrist (unless, of course, you have a lack of feeling in your foot). You can schedule a hair appointment instead, or maybe see a movie. However, once painful symptoms start to appear, it?s better to skip the hirsute (or cinematic) experience and go see your foot doctor. Your podiatrist will likely make the diagnosis by examining your foot visually, asking about symptoms you may be experiencing, and may test your muscle strength. You may be asked to stand on your toes (in a ballerina pose, if you prefer, although that?s certainly not required), or walk around the examining room, and you may need to show the podiatrist your shoes. He or she may comment on your excellent taste in footwear, but is more likely to check your shoes for signs of wear that may indicate fallen arches. Your podiatrist may recommend X-rays, a CT scan or an MRI in order to get a look at the interior of your foot, although the best diagnosis usually comes from the doctor?s own in-person examination.

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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 Feet

Since there are many different causes of flatfoot, the types of flatfoot reconstruction surgery are best categorized by the conditions. Posterior tibial tendon dysfunction. In this condition, the tendon connecting the calf muscle to the inner foot is torn or inflamed. Once the tendon is damaged it no longer can serve its main function of supporting the arch of the foot. Flatfoot is the main result of this type of condition and can be treated by the following flatfoot reconstruction surgeries. Lengthening of the Achilles tendon. Otherwise known as gastrocnemius recession, this procedure is used to lengthen the calf muscles in the leg. This surgery treats flatfoot and prevents it from returning in the future. This procedure is often combined with other surgeries to correct posterior tibial tendon dysfunction. Cleaning the tendon. Also known as tenosynovectomy, this procedure is used in the earlier and less severe stages of posterior tibial tendon dysfunction. It is performed before the arch collapses and while the tendon is only mildly affected. The inflamed tissue is cleaned away and removed from the remaining healthy tendon. Tendon transfer. This procedure is done to correct flatfoot and reform the lost arch in the foot. During the procedure, the diseased tendon is removed and replaced by tendon from another area of the foot. If the tendon is only partially damaged, the inflamed part is cleaned and removed then attached to a new tendon. Cutting and shifting bones. Also called an osteotomy, this procedure consists of cutting and reconstructing bones in the foot to reconstruct the arch. The heel bone and the midfoot are most likely reshaped to achieve this desired result. A bone graft may be used to fuse the bones or to lengthen the outside of the foot. Temporary instrumentation such as screws and plates can also be used to hold the bones together while they heal.

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.

After Care

Time off work depends on the type of work as well as the surgical procedures performed. . A patient will be required to be non-weight bearing in a cast or splint and use crutches for four to twelve weeks. Usually a patient can return to work in one to two weeks if they are able to work while seated. If a person's job requires standing and walking, return to work may take several weeks. Complete recovery may take six months to a full year. Complications can occur as with all surgeries, but are minimized by strictly following your surgeon's post-operative instructions. The main complications include infection, bone that is slow to heal or does not heal, progression or reoccurrence of deformity, a stiff foot, and the need for further surgery. Many of the above complications can be avoided by only putting weight on the operative foot when allowed by your surgeon.
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