Fairly common in infants and small children, but also prevalent in adults, flat feet becomes a problem if pain or discomfort is present in the foot or even around the knee and lower leg area. Pain around the knee and lower leg areas can arise because flat feet can alter proper foot and leg alignment, which will put unusual strain on the knee. Adults can develop the condition as the result of injury or even from normal wear and tear due to the natural aging process.
The direct cause of being flat footed is linked to a muscular imbalance in the intrinsic muscles of the foot and ankle. When your main arch-supporting tendon, the posterior tibial tendon, decreases in strength due to muscle decay or injury, the foot begins to flatten and can cause pain during normal activities. Weakness in the tendon can be present at birth due to genetics or can develop from early walking patterns. However, in most people who experience fallen arches, it comes from strain due to aging or placed on the feet from standing or walking in heels for long periods of time. Improper footwear that doesn?t support the arch of the foot, diabetes and obesity can increase your risk of developing fallen arches.
Fallen arches may induce pain in the heel, the inside of the arch, the ankle, and may even extend up the body into the leg (shin splints), knee, lower back and hip. You may also experience inflammation (swelling, redness, heat and pain) along the inside of the ankle (along the posterior tibial tendon). Additionally, you may notice some changes in the way your foot looks. Your ankle may begin to turn inward (pronate), causing the bottom of your heel to tilt outward. Other secondary symptoms may also show up as the condition progresses, such as hammertoes or bunions. You may also want to check your footprint after you step out of the shower. (It helps if you pretend you?re in a mystery novel, and you?re leaving wet, footprinty clues that will help crack the case.) Normally, you can see a clear imprint of the front of your foot (the ball and the toes) the heel, and the outside edge of your foot. There should be a gap (i.e. no footprinting) along the inside where your arches are. If your foot is flat, it?ll probably leave an imprint of the full bottom of your foot-no gap to be had. Your shoes may also be affected: because the ankle tilts somewhat with this condition, the heel of your shoes may become more worn on one side than another.
Runners are often advised to get a gait analysis to determine what type of foot they have and so what kind of running shoe they require. This shouldn?t stop at runners. Anyone that plays sports could benefit from this assessment. Sports shoes such as football boots, astro trainers and squash trainers often have very poor arch support and so for the 60-80% of us who do overpronate or have flat feet they are left unsupported. A change of footwear or the insertion of arch support insoles or orthotics can make a massive difference to your risk of injury, to general aches and pains and even to your performance.
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Non Surgical Treatment
The typical treatment for pain from fallen arches is an arch insert. While many people experience dramatic pain relief from this, others continue to suffer from chronic achy feet despite the arch support. The problem with this approach is that it does not do anything to strengthen the weak ligaments that may be at the root of the problem and, thus, does not alleviate the chronic pain that people with this condition experience. Another standard practice of modern medicine is to use steroids or to prescribe anti-inflammatory medications. However, in the long run, these treatments do more damage than good. Cortisone shots and anti-inflammatory drugs have been shown to produce short-term pain benefit, but both result in long-term loss of function and even more chronic pain by actually inhibiting the healing process of soft tissues and accelerating cartilage degeneration. Plus, long-term use of these drugs can lead to other sources of chronic pain, allergies and leaky gut syndrome.
Procedures may include the following. Fusing foot or ankle bones together (arthrodesis). Removing bones or bony growths, also called spurs (excision). Cutting or changing the shape of the bone (osteotomy). Cleaning the tendons' protective coverings (synovectomy). Adding tendon from other parts of your body to tendons in your foot to help balance the "pull" of the tendons and form an arch (tendon transfer). Grafting bone to your foot to make the arch rise more naturally (lateral column lengthening).