Cristen Farabee

Feet Difficulties Explained

Working With Fallen Arches

Overview

Flat Feet

The term 'fallen arches' is rather a historical one, but is one many people seem to have heard of. What it essentially refers to is a ligament problem in the sole of his foot where these run along its length. In most people these ligaments provide support to the foot when walking and help keep the foot in a normal anatomical position. Some people however seem to have laxity in these ligaments so the foot becomes under undue strain and pain can occur as a result.

Causes

There are many reasons why flat feet develop. Here?s a look at some of the most common causes. Genetics, weak arches, injury, arthritis, diabetes, age, wear and tear on feet, tibialis posterior (ruptured tendon). Nervous system or muscle diseases such as cerebral palsy. Weakness and tightness of other muscles and tendons higher up in the lower extremity. The way our arches form depends on several factors. Our feet are complex structures that comprise twenty-six bones, thirty-three joints, and more than 100 muscles, tendons, and ligaments each. Each foot forms two arches. The arch that runs from the heel to the toe is known as the longitudinal arch, while the one that runs the width is known as the transverse arch. Ligaments (fibrous tissues) give our arches their shape and hold our bones together. The plantar fascia (the long, strong band of connective tissue that runs along the sole of your foot) and muscles add secondary support. There are also foot pads that absorb impact and assist with weight-bearing functions. How these things intertwine and work together determines the formation of our arches. A structural abnormality or injury to one of these components can result in flatfoot.

Symptoms

Knee/Hip/Back Pain - When the arch collapses in the foot, it triggers a series of compensations up the joint chain, leading to increased stress on the knee, pelvis and low back. Plantar fasciitis - This condition is characterized by heel pain, especially with the first few steps you take. The plantar fascia stretches as the arch falls, putting stress on the heel. Bunions - If you see a bony bump developing at the base of your big toe, you are likely developing a bunion. It may be swollen, red or painful when it rubs against your shoe. A flattened arch spreads the forefoot and causes the big toe to deviate toward the second toe. Shin splints - This term generally refers to pain anywhere along the shinbone. It is typically due to overuse and is aggravated after exercise and activity.

Diagnosis

Flat feet are easy to identify while standing or walking. When someone with flat feet stands, their inner foot or arch flattens and their foot may roll over to the inner side. This is known as overpronation. To see whether your foot overpronates, stand on tiptoes or push your big toe back as far as possible. If the arch of your foot doesn't appear, your foot is likely to overpronate when you walk or run. It can be difficult to tell whether a child has flat feet because their arches may not fully develop until they're 10 years of age.

Why do arches fall?

Non Surgical Treatment

Some of the aspects of the pain with a ?fallen arch? are related to the crushing of the joints of the outside of the foot and from the stretching of ligaments and tendons of the inside of the foot. Unfortunately, some parts of the damage from the fallen arch, the weakness in the tendons and the new shape of the foot, are not correctable without surgical reconstruction. The first goal is to stabilize the collapsed arch. This can be done through braces. If the deformity is mild, an over-the-counter arch support may be sufficient. In more severe deformities an hinged or solid ankle brace may be necessary. Rehabilitative exercises under the supervision of a physical therapist will help increase the strength of the remaining muscles. Stiffness of certain tendons including the Achilles and hamstring is also very helpful as tightness in these structures is very common in people with ?fallen arches?. Postural training is necessary. A short period of casting or walking in a cast boot will improve swelling of a recent partial tear of the tendons and ligaments on the inside of the ankle. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen, and naprosyn can help to relieve the pain, but do not heal the injuries associated with this or decrease the swelling significantly. Surgical reconstruction is available if the pain cannot be controlled reasonably with these measures.

Surgical Treatment

Flat Feet

Surgical correction is dependent on the severity of symptoms and the stage of deformity. The goals of surgery are to create a more functional and stable foot. There are multiple procedures available to the surgeon and it may take several to correct a flatfoot deformity. Stage one deformities usually respond to conservative or non-surgical therapy such as anti-inflammatory medication, casting, functional orthotics or a foot ankle orthosis called a Richie Brace. If these modalities are unsuccessful surgery is warranted. Usually surgical treatment begins with removal of inflammatory tissue and repair of the posterior tibial tendon. A tendon transfer is performed if the posterior tibial muscle is weak or the tendon is badly damaged. The most commonly used tendon is the flexor digitorum longus tendon. This tendon flexes or moves the lesser toes downward. The flexor digitorum longus tendon is utilized due to its close proximity to the posterior tibial tendon and because there are minimal side effects with its loss. The remainder of the tendon is sutured to the flexor hallucis longus tendon that flexes the big toe so that little function is loss. Stage two deformities are less responsive to conservative therapies that can be effective in mild deformities. Bone procedures are necessary at this stage in order to recreate the arch and stabilize the foot. These procedures include isolated fusion procedures, bone grafts, and/or the repositioning of bones through cuts called osteotomies. The realigned bones are generally held in place with screws, pins, plates, or staples while the bone heals. A tendon transfer may or may not be utilized depending on the condition of the posterior tibial tendon. Stage three deformities are better treated with surgical correction, in healthy patients. Patients that are unable to tolerate surgery or the prolonged healing period are better served with either arch supports known as orthotics or bracing such as the Richie Brace. Surgical correction at this stage usually requires fusion procedures such as a triple or double arthrodesis. This involves fusing the two or three major bones in the back of the foot together with screws or pins. The most common joints fused together are the subtalar joint, talonavicular joint, and the calcaneocuboid joint. By fusing the bones together the surgeon is able to correct structural deformity and alleviate arthritic pain. Tendon transfer procedures are usually not beneficial at this stage. Stage four deformities are treated similarly but with the addition of fusing the ankle joint.

After Care

Time off work depends on the type of work as well as the surgical procedures performed. . A patient will be required to be non-weight bearing in a cast or splint and use crutches for four to twelve weeks. Usually a patient can return to work in one to two weeks if they are able to work while seated. If a person's job requires standing and walking, return to work may take several weeks. Complete recovery may take six months to a full year. Complications can occur as with all surgeries, but are minimized by strictly following your surgeon's post-operative instructions. The main complications include infection, bone that is slow to heal or does not heal, progression or reoccurrence of deformity, a stiff foot, and the need for further surgery. Many of the above complications can be avoided by only putting weight on the operative foot when allowed by your surgeon.
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