Pain In The Foot's Arch Triggers Signs And Symptoms And Treatment Options

Overview

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.

Arch Pain

Causes

Sprains, strains, bruises, and fractures may be the result of a single stress or a combination of stresses to the foot. A blunt-force injury such as someone stepping on your foot may result not only in a bruise (contusion), but also in damage to the primary and secondary structures of the foot. Many of the muscles of the lower leg and foot attach on or near the arch. Injured or tight muscles may lead to incorrect biomechanics and in turn cause arch pain. Injury to the bones of the foot can be caused by a single blow or twist to the arch or also by repetitive trauma, which can result in a stress fracture. A sprain of the arch occurs when the ligaments which hold the bones together are overstretched and the fibers tear. The muscles of the foot may be strained by overstretching, overuse, overloading, bruising, or being cut by stepping on a sharp object. Arthritis of the arch joints may also occur if the foot is subjected to repetitive movements that stress the arch.

Symptoms

The groups of muscles that support the arch can be divided into two groups. The muscles on the top of the arch start on the front lower leg and help to lift the arch, and the muscles that help pull the arch on the bottom of the foot are located the on back of the lower leg. Muscle injury may be indicated when pain is felt when the foot is fully extended, flexed, or turned in or out. Pain may also be felt when working the foot against resistance. Bruises are the result of a direct-force injury to the body. A bruise can occur to the foot by a variety of causes, such as having your foot stepped on or by stepping on a rock. The tissues that compose the arch do not provide that area of the body much protection. Blows to the foot that result in pain, discoloration, swelling, and changes in how you walk may indicate more serious damage.

Diagnosis

The adult acquired flatfoot, secondary to posterior tibial tendon dysfunction, is diagnosed in a number of ways with no single test proven to be totally reliable. The most accurate diagnosis is made by a skilled clinician utilizing observation and hands on evaluation of the foot and ankle. Observation of the foot in a walking examination is most reliable. The affected foot appears more pronated and deformed compared to the unaffected foot. Muscle testing will show a strength deficit. An easy test to perform in the office is the single foot raise.

Non Surgical Treatment

Treatment must be directed to supporting the individual bones and joints which make up the arch, and to aid the arch in its job as a shock absorber. This in turn alleviates the arch pain, and prevents the further collapse of the arch. This is accomplished through the use of either a high quality arch support or custom-made orthotics. These devices support not only the arch, but each individual bone and joint which makes up the arch; and because of the space-age materials used in their construction, allow the arch to become a much more efficient shock absorber. This not only relieves the arch pain, but also prevents it from returning, and keeps the arch from collapsing further.

Arch Pain

Surgical Treatment

With flat feet, there is a tendon on the inside of the foot than can often become weakened, injured, split and/or ruptured. This tendon, is called the posterior tibial tendon, and is the main arch supporting tendon. Obviously damage to this tendon can cause collapse of the arch. Some people have genetically inefficient tendon, and tends to be the case in younger people. In mild cases, such as tendon splits, the posterior tibial tendon can be repaired to restore its strength. Acute incontinuity of the tendon can be primarily repaired. Often the posterior tibial tendon is augmented with a tendon transfer of an adjacent tendon to provide both strength and continuity. In any tendon repair, advanced or retensioning of the tendon is performed. In most flat foot surgery a tendon augmentation is often combined with other boney procedures to restore structure and balance to the foot.

Stretching Exercises

Below are two simple plantar fasciitis stretching exercises to help improve the flexibility of the muscles and tendons around the foot and ankle. Plantar fasciitis stretch taken from The Stretching Handbook. Kneel on one foot and place your body weight over your knee. Keep your heel on the ground and lean forward. In the photo to the left, the athlete is stretching the arch of her left foot. Kneel on one foot with your hands on the ground. Place your body weight over your knee and slowly move your knee forward. Keep your toes on the ground and arch your foot. In the photo to the right, the athlete is stretching the arch of his right foot.

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