The condition known as ?fallen arches? is also referred to as flat feet or pes planus. It arises when the arch of the foot collapses to the point that the entire sole is flat to the ground. It is commonly seen in young children who have yet to develop the muscles in the sole of their feet. In most cases as a child develops and learns how to walk the finer intrinsic muscles that support the sole of the foot will develop normally and an arch forms. However in a small number of cases these muscles don?t form properly and thus neither does the arch. Fallen arches which are acquired in adulthood may be due to a number of factors.
Just as there are many different causes of flat feet, there are also many different treatment options. The most important aspect of treatment is determining the exact type or underlying cause of flat feet that you have. Foot and ankle specialists can determine this through thorough clinical examination and special imaging studies (e.g., x-rays, computed tomography, and/or magnetic resonance imaging). Conservative treatment is effective in the vast majority of flat foot cases, and consists of things such as insoles, splints, manipulation, or casting. Surgery is required much less frequently, and is reserved only for some of the severe types of flat foot that do not respond to conservative therapy. You may have noticed that one common element in the conservative treatment of all types of flat feet is orthoses. Many companies now manufacture semi-custom orthotic devices that not only improve comfort, but also seek to control abnormal motion of the foot. These over-the-counter inserts, in the $25 to $50 range, are an economical treatment that may help a majority of people. Unfortunately, these semi-custom devices will not fit everyone perfectly, and those of us who differ too much from the average may respond better to custom orthotic devices. Custom inserts are prescribed by your foot and ankle specialist and are made individually from either a physical or computerized impression of your feet. The only drawback of custom orthoses is their cost, ranging anywhere from $300 to $500. Many physicians recommend trying over-the-counter inserts first (and even keep them in stock) as they may save their patients large sums of money.
Depending on the cause of the flatfoot, a patient may experience one or more of the different symptoms below. Pain along the course of the posterior tibial tendon which lies on the inside of the foot and ankle. This can be associated with swelling on the inside of the ankle. Pain that is worse with activity. High intensity or impact activities, such as running, can be very difficult. Some patients can have difficulty walking or even standing for long periods of time. When the foot collapses, the heel bone may shift position and put pressure on the outside ankle bone (fibula). This can cause pain on the outside of the ankle. Arthritis in the heel also causes this same type of pain. Patients with an old injury or arthritis in the middle of the foot can have painful, bony bumps on the top and inside of the foot. These make shoewear very difficult. Occasionally, the bony spurs are so large that they pinch the nerves which can result in numbness and tingling on the top of the foot and into the toes. Diabetics may only notice swelling or a large bump on the bottom of the foot. Because their sensation is affected, people with diabetes may not have any pain. The large bump can cause skin problems and an ulcer (a sore that does not heal) may develop if proper diabetic shoewear is not used.
An examination of the foot is enough for the health care provider to diagnose flat foot. However, the cause must be determined. If an arch develops when the patient stands on his or her toes, the flat foot is called flexible and no treatment or further work-up is necessary. If there is pain associated with the foot or if the arch does not develop with toe-standing, x-rays are necessary. If a tarsal coalition is suspected, a CT scan is often ordered. If a posterior tibial tendon injury is suspected, your health care provider may recommend an MRI.
Non Surgical Treatment
Normally, flat feet disappear by age six as the feet become less flexible and the arches develop. Only about 1 or 2 out of every 10 children will continue to have flat feet into adulthood. For children who do not develop an arch, treatment is not recommended unless the foot is stiff or painful. Shoe inserts won?t help your child develop an arch, and may cause more problems than the flat feet themselves. However, certain forms of flat feet may need to be treated differently. For instance, a child may have tightness of the heel cord (Achilles tendon) that limits the motion of his foot. This tightness can result in a flat foot, but it usually can be treated with special stretching exercises to lengthen the heel cord. Rarely, a child will have truly rigid flat feet, a condition that can cause problems.
A better approach is to strengthen the weakened ligaments with Prolotherapy, supplemented by an arch support if the condition has existed for several years. Chronic pain is most commonly due to tendon and ligament weakness, or cartilage deterioration. The safest and most effective natural medicine treatment for repairing tendon, ligament and cartilage damage is Prolotherapy. In simple terms, Prolotherapy stimulates the body to repair painful areas. It does so by inducing a mild inflammatory reaction in the weakened ligaments and cartilage. Since the body heals by inflammation, Prolotherapy stimulates healing. Prolotherapy offers the most curative results in treating chronic pain. It effectively eliminates pain because it attacks the source: the fibro-osseous junction, an area rich in sensory nerves. What?s more, the tissue strengthening and pain relief stimulated by Prolotherapy is permanent.
Patients may go home the day of surgery or they may require an overnight hospital stay. The leg will be placed in a splint or cast and should be kept elevated for the first two weeks. At that point, sutures are removed. A new cast or a removable boot is then placed. It is important that patients do not put any weight on the corrected foot for six to eight weeks following the operation. Patients may begin bearing weight at eight weeks and usually progress to full weightbearing by 10 to 12 weeks. For some patients, weightbearing requires additional time. After 12 weeks, patients commonly can transition to wearing a shoe. Inserts and ankle braces are often used. Physical therapy may be recommended. There are complications that relate to surgery in general. These include the risks associated with anesthesia, infection, damage to nerves and blood vessels, and bleeding or blood clots. Complications following flatfoot surgery may include wound breakdown or nonunion (incomplete healing of the bones). These complications often can be prevented with proper wound care and rehabilitation. Occasionally, patients may notice some discomfort due to prominent hardware. Removal of hardware can be done at a later time if this is an issue. The overall complication rates for flatfoot surgery are low.