Managing Fallen Arches

posted on 03 Apr 2015 12:01 by tanbudget8504
Overview

Flat Feet

Flat feet and fallen arches refer to the same thing. It's a downward sagging of the inside edge of the foot during standing or walking. The front-to-back arches (called the longitudinal arches) are natural curves along the bottoms of both feet that are supported by muscles and ligaments. When these muscles and ligaments give way, the arches sag with each step. When the arches sag, your weight is shifted toward your big toes.




Causes

Fallen arches may be caused by a number of causes, including increased elastin during pregnancy, arthritis, injury, excessive stress on the foot, fused bones in the foot, or an extra bone. They may cause not only foot pain, but also pain in the legs, knees, and back and a loss of mobility. The condition is most often treated with orthotics, structures placed in the shoes to support the feet, but this may not be enough for severe cases. Exercises to strengthen and rebuild the arches can also be helpful. Surgery is sometimes the best method of treatment, as it can completely rebuild the arches and has lasting results, but it is quite expensive and considered a last resort.




Symptoms

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.




Diagnosis

There are a few simple ways to assess your foot type, and most include making an imprint of your footprint. The classic way is to stand on a hard floor surface with wet feet to make a wet foot print. Look at the narrowest part of your footprint, which should be between your heel and ball of your foot. If the print of your foot in this part is less than 10% of the width of the widest part then you are likely to have high arches. more than 10% but less than 25% then your foot profile is probably normal, more than 25% or even the widest part, then you have flat feet.




Non Surgical Treatment

Treatment of flat feet may be appropriate if there is associated foot or lower leg pain, or if the condition affects the knees or the lower back. Treatment may include using Orthoses such as an arch support, foot gymnastics or other exercises as recommended by a podiatrist/orthotist or physical therapist. In cases of severe flat feet, orthoses should be used through a gradual process to lessen discomfort. Over several weeks, slightly more material is added to the orthosis to raise the arch. These small changes allow the foot structure to adjust gradually, as well as giving the patient time to acclimatise to the sensation of wearing orthoses. Once prescribed, orthoses are generally worn for the rest of the patient's life. In some cases, surgery can provide lasting relief, and even create an arch where none existed before; it should be considered a last resort, as it is usually very time consuming and costly.




Surgical Treatment

Adult Acquired Flat Foot

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

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.