Arch pain is common in people with a typical structural problem known as flat feet. Arch pain may also occur in people with fallen arches (a fallen arch is one that has collapsed due to bearing weight). Flat feet can lead to extreme stress or inflammation of the plantar fascia, possibly causing severe discomfort and leading to other foot problems. Without properly supported arches, simple movement can pull your body out of alignment and cause stress, strain and fatigue to your lower body.
A common cause of foot arch pain is a stress fracture. They tend to occur from repeated overloading of one of the foot bones from activities such as jumping and running especially if you have suddenly increased your activity level. The breaks in the bone may be small but they can be extremely painful. Stress fractures of the metatarsal bones or the navicular can cause anything from mild to severe foot arch pain. The Tibialis Posterior muscle plays a very important role in supporting the medial arch of the foot. Posterior Tibial Tendonitis can occur either through repetitive use e.g. high impact sports such as soccer or tennis, or from an injury e.g. a fall. This causes the tendon to become inflamed or even torn, resulting in pain on bottom of foot. This pain usually gets worse with activity or when standing for long periods. If the problem persists, the inner side of the foot (known as the medial longitudinal arch of the foot) gradually collapses down, causing flat feet. A simple test for this condition is to stand on one leg and rise up onto your tiptoes. If you cannot, it indicates a problem with the Posterior Tibial tendon. Treatment usually consists of rest, ice, exercises, orthotics and physical therapy.
Pain in arch of foot is really the only symptom of this condition. It is unlikely to see any swelling or bruising and instead there will be a deep tender spot near the heel. Occasionally the pain may radiate further down the foot. With this condition, pain will usually be felt first thing in the morning or after periods of sitting. This is because the plantar fascia tightens and shortens slightly when there is no weight on it and by standing on it it suddenly stretches and becomes painful. After a few steps it starts to loosen off and the pain may subside. If this is the same pattern of pain you experience it is quite likely you have plantar fasciits. Pain may also be felt when walking up stairs or standing on tip-toes (anything that stretches the fascia).
The doctor will take a brief history to determine how the injury occurred. If necessary, a thorough physical exam may be conducted to evaluate for any other injuries. Taking your workout shoes to the exam may also provide valuable information to the medical practitioner. Both feet will be physically and visually examined by the medical practitioner. The foot and arch will be touched and manipulated possibly with a lot of pressure and inspected to identify obvious deformities, tender spots, or any differences in the bones of the foot and arch.
Non Surgical Treatment
If it is flat feet, then you'd seek professional advice and maybe need orthotics, or arch supports to prevent the pressures and to stop the pain. One of the other reasons you can get pain in this area of the foot is plantar fasciitis. The plantar fascia is a membrane that is inside of the skin and attaches to the heel bone here. It divides into three bands that go out of the foot here: the outer band, the central band, and the medial band here. Often, from impact, you get an inflammation of that attachment to the heel bone and this can often spread up the medial band and this is another way of getting pain in that arch. Now, the way to treat that is also using arch supports but also heel cushions, better soled shoes to prevent the pressure. These things normally disappear after a year, 18 months. Plantar fasciitis is easier to treat because it's not a long term problem. If you do need arch support, something like this would be very good for both problems.
There are two types of bone procedure for flat feet, those where bone cuts and bone grafts are used to alter the alignment by avoiding any joint structures, or joint invasive procedures (called fusions or arthrodeses) that remove a joint to reshape the foot. With joint fusion procedures, there are those procedures that involve non-essential joints of the foot versus those that involve essential joints. All bone procedures have their place in flat foot surgery, and Dr. Blitz carefully evaluates each foot to preserve as much motion and function while obtaining proper and adequate alignment. In many cases a flat foot reconstruction involves both soft tissue procedures and bone procedures to rebuild and restore the arch. There are several joints in the arch of the foot that can collapse - and these joints are non-essential joints of the foot. This does not mean that they do not have a purpose, but rather become inefficient is providing a stable platform for function. As such, locking these non-essential non-functioning joints into place is commonly recommended. These joints are fused together with screws and/or plates. A heel bone that is no longer in proper position and pushed outwards away from the foot can be corrected with a bone cut and realignment procedure, so long as the displacement is not too significant. A benefit of this surgery is that it keeps the back portion of the foot mobile, and helps the surrounding tendons work for efficiently in maintaining the arch. In certain flat feet, the foot is deviated outwards and away from the midline of the body. Sometimes, this is due to the outer portion of the foot being shorter than the inner portion. Here bone graft can be added to the outer edge of the foot to lengthen the foot to swing the foot over into a corrected position. This procedure is most commonly performed in children and young adults. A bone graft is inserted into the top part of the arch to realign a component of the flat foot, medically known as forefoot varus or medial column elevatus. The back part of the foot (called the rearfoot complex) can be the cause (or source) of the flat foot or the simply affected by the flat foot foot. In simple terms, the back part of the foot can be made to flatten out due to arch problems - and vica versa for that matter. Dr. Blitz specifically identifies the cause of the flat foot as this will determine the best treatment plan, as each flat foot needs to be evaluated individually. The rearfoot is made up of three joints, and depending on the extent and most importantly the rigidity of these joints, they may require fusion to restore alignment. When all three joints require fusion - this call is a triple arthrodesis. For completeness, isolated fusion of any of the three joints can be performed (such as subtalar joint arthrodesis, talonavicular arthrodesis, and calcaneaocuboid joint arthrodesis). The medical decision making for isolated fusions is beyond the scope this article, but Dr. Blitz tries to avoid any rearfoot fusion for flexible feet because these are joints are essential joints of the foot, especially in younger people. Those in severe cases, it may be advantageous to provide re-alignment.
To prevent arch pain, it is important to build up slowly to your exercise routine while wearing arch supports inside training shoes. By undertaking these simple measures you can prevent the discomfort of arch pain which can otherwise linger for many months. While you allow the foot to recover, it will help to undertake low impact exercises (such as swimming or water aerobics).
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.