What Are Fallen Arches

Overview

Adult Acquired Flat Feet

flat foot, condition of the human foot in which the entire sole rests on the ground when the person is standing. When the foot muscles are weakened or the ligaments are strained and stretched, the arch lowers, so that instead of the natural curved contour, there is flattening of the entire sole. Sometimes no discomfort accompanies flat foot. However, fallen arches may cause disalignment of other foot structures so that there is pain not only in the arch area but also in the calf muscles and sometimes as far up as the lower back; the discomfort is increased by prolonged standing. Flat foot may be inherited or may be caused by rickets, obesity, metabolic disorder, debilitating disease, or faulty footwear. Treatment and exercise directed by an orthopedic physician are sometimes advisable. Arch supports or other devices to be worn inside the shoe are often prescribed.




Causes

Infants and young children naturally have flat feet. The arch should develop over time. Sometimes, the arch does not develop. It is not always clear why this happens. Flat feet may develop because of ruptured or damaged tendon that supports the arch, medical conditions that affect muscles or nerves in the foot, degenerative changes in certain foot joints, Ligament damage in the foot.




Symptoms

Structural problems in your feet like fallen arches can alter your walking pattern, running pattern and cause pain throughout your body. Clear and accurate assessment of the mechanics of your lower limbs is key to understanding the profound effect that subtle faults in your foot, ankle, knee and hip alignment can cause.




Diagnosis

Most children and adults with flatfeet do not need to see a physician for diagnosis or treatment. However, it is a good idea to see a doctor if the feet tire easily or are painful after standing, it is difficult to move the foot around or stand on the toes, the foot aches, especially in the heel or arch, and there is swelling on the inner side of the foot, the pain interferes with activity or the person has been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. Most flatfeet are diagnosed during physical examination. During the exam, the foot may be wetted and the patient asked to stand on a piece of paper. An outline of the entire foot will indicate a flattened arch. Also, when looking at the feet from behind, the ankle and heel may appear to lean inward (pronation). The patient may be asked to walk so the doctor can see how much the arch flattens during walking. The doctor may also examine the patient's shoes for signs of uneven wear, ask questions about a family history of flatfeet, and inquire about known neurological or muscular diseases. Imaging tests may be used to help in the diagnosis. If there is pain or the arch does not appear when the foot is flexed, x-rays are taken to determine the cause. If tarsal coalition is suspected, computed tomography (CT scan) may be performed, and if an injury to the tendons is suspected, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI scan) may be performed.




Non Surgical Treatment

For mild pain or aching, acetaminophen (Tylenol) or a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), such as aspirin or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin and others) may be effective. Flexible Flatfoot. When there are no symptoms, treatment is not needed. If a child older than age 3 develops symptoms, the doctor may prescribe a therapeutic shoe insert made from a mold of the child's foot or a corrective shoe. As an alternative, some doctors recommend store-bought arch supports. These appear to work as well as more expensive treatments in many children. With any conservative, nonsurgical treatment, the goal is to relieve pain by supporting the arch and correcting any imbalance in the mechanics of the foot.




Surgical Treatment

Flat Foot

Fallen arches may occur with deformities of the foot bones. Tarsal coalition is a congenital condition in which the bones of the foot do not separate from one another during development in the womb. A child with tarsal coalition exhibits a rigid flat foot, which can be painful, notes the patient information website eOrthopod. Surgery may prove necessary to separate the bones. Other foot and ankle conditions that cause fallen arches may also require surgery if noninvasive treatments fail to alleviate pain and restore normal function.
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