All You Need To Find Out About Pain In The Arches

Overview


The arch of the foot is formed by the tarsal and metatarsal bones and is strengthened by ligaments and tendons that enable the foot to correctly support the weight of the body. The underside of the foot is made up of four layers of muscle tissue as well as a length of thick connective tissue called the plantar fascia, which supports the arch. If the surrounding muscles weaken, the plantar fascia will drop and the arch will collapse. If the arch collapses, the whole foot touches the ground, which is known as pes planus or flat feet. Flat feet affect about 15 per cent of Britons. Although usually genetic, the condition may be exacerbated or triggered by poorly fitted shoes or conditions such as arthritis and pregnancy, when sudden changes in shape and weight can alter the body's centre of gravity leading to a weakening of the arches.


Pain In Arch


Causes


There are a number of possible causes for arch pain, but the most common are structural imbalances of the foot, such a pronated foot (rolls inward at the ankles). This is often not enough in isolation to cause the problem, but in combination with other factors arch pain may develop. These other factors are usually associated with overuse - running, walking, hard surfaces and/or OFAD (on feet all day), usually combined with inadequate or non-supportive footwear. The more common specific causes of arch pain can be plantar fasciitis (strain of the plantar fascia - a strong ligament that supports the arch), tarsal tunnel syndrome (a pinched nerve at the ankle that refers pain to the arch), foot strain from a pronated foot or flat foot, there can be osteoarthritis of the joints in the midfoot that can cause arch pain.


Symptoms


If you've ever seen your footprints in the sand and they looked more like bricks than feet, then you probably have flat feet. Simply stated, a flat foot is a foot that does not have an arch when standing. In the medical world, flat feet are associated with "pronated" feet. Pronated is merely the term used to describe the position of the foot when it is flexed upward (dorsiflexed), turned away from the body (abducted), and the heel is rolled outward (everted), all at the same time. A certain amount of pronation is required for normal walking, but too much pronation is often considered a foot's "worst enemy." Over time, excessive pronation can lead to many unpleasant problems including heel pain, bunions, hammertoes, shin splints, and even knee, hip, or back pain. In fact, one orthopedic surgeon discovered that 95% of his total knee replacement patients and 90% of his total hip replacement patients had flat feet. An easy way to tell if you pronate too much is to take a look at your athletic shoes-excessive wearing of the inside heel (arch side of the shoe) as compared to the outside is a classic indication of excessive pronation.


Diagnosis


To come to a correct diagnosis, your podiatrist will examine your foot by using his or her fingers to look for a lump or stone bruise in the ball of your foot. He or she will examine your foot to look for deformities such as high or low arches, or to see if you have hammertoes. He or she may use x-rays, MRIs (magnetic resource imaging), and CT scans to rule out fractures and damage to ligaments, tendons, and other surrounding tissues. Your doctor will also inquire about your daily activities, symptoms, medical history, and family history. If you spend a lot of time running or jumping, you may be at a higher risk for pain in the bottom of your foot. These diagnostic tests will help your doctor come to a proper diagnosis and create an appropriate treatment plan.


Non Surgical Treatment


High arches that are flexible do not require any treatment. In cases where there is pain, shoe modifications such as an arch insert or support insole can help to relieve pain during walking. Custom orthotic devices can be given that fit into the shoe and provide stability and cushioning effect. Your doctor may recommend a brace to help keep the foot and ankle stable. In severe cases, surgery is performed to flatten the foot. Any coexisting nerve disorders are also treated.


Foot Arch Pain


Surgical Treatment


With flat feet, there is a tendon on the inside of the foot than can often become weakened, injured, split and/or ruptured. This tendon, is called the posterior tibial tendon, and is the main arch supporting tendon. Obviously damage to this tendon can cause collapse of the arch. Some people have genetically inefficient tendon, and tends to be the case in younger people. In mild cases, such as tendon splits, the posterior tibial tendon can be repaired to restore its strength. Acute incontinuity of the tendon can be primarily repaired. Often the posterior tibial tendon is augmented with a tendon transfer of an adjacent tendon to provide both strength and continuity. In any tendon repair, advanced or retensioning of the tendon is performed. In most flat foot surgery a tendon augmentation is often combined with other boney procedures to restore structure and balance to the foot.


Stretching Exercises


Point your toes. To ease foot pain and aching in your feet, lift one foot and roll it downward until the toes are pointed toward the ground. Then flex your foot. Repeat using the other foot. This exercise will help stretch out all the small muscles that are on the bottom of your feet, which can help relieve aching and improve blood circulation. Raise your heels. This exercise is good for relieving toe cramps caused by standing for hours in constricting shoes, says Kurtz. Bonus: It can also strengthen calf muscles and make them look more defined. Stand up and lift your heels so that you are standing on the balls of your feet. Hold for 10 seconds. Repeat 10 times. Squeeze your toes. To strengthen the toes and help alleviate foot pain from hammertoes (when a toe resembles a claw), separate your toes using corks or foam toe separators and then squeeze your toes together for five seconds. Repeat 10 times. Roll a ball. Want to create an instant massage for the bottom of your feet? Roll a golf ball or tennis ball under the ball of your foot. Apply light pressure for about two minutes. This exercise can be helpful for arch pain, cramps, and heel pain from plantar fasciitis. Stretch standing up. A weight-bearing, runners-type stretch can be helpful for foot pain in the arch. Stand up and place your toes against a wall; lean forward a little until you feel your arch stretch. Repeat using the other foot. Stretch sitting down. Sit barefoot and cross your left leg so that your ankle rests on your right thigh. Then hold your toes and bend them back toward your shin, stretching the band of tissue connecting the bottom of the heel to the ball. A University of Rochester study found that people living with plantar fasciitis had a 75 percent chance of having no pain within three to six months of performing this stretch three times daily. Give yourself a foot massage. Nothing spells pain relief like a good foot rub. Use the following technique recommended by Rhonda Crockett, a licensed massage therapist at Ohio State University?s Center for Integrative Medicine in Columbus. Start with your toes, using your thumb to massage them in circular motions. Then move to the arch under your foot and gradually work your way down to the heel, applying pressure with your fingers and palm of your hand. Use lotion to allow your hand to move smoothly over your foot. Relax in a warm bath with Epsom salts. The combination of warm water and Epsom salts will give you a double dose of pain relief and relaxation. Magnesium sulfate, the key compound in Epsom salts, has been found to relax muscles, reduce pain, and sedate the nervous system. Plus, warm water helps improve circulation in the feet and relieve muscle pain. Crockett recommends adding two cups of Epsom salts to a warm bath and soaking for 20 minutes.

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Marlys Vandekamp

Author:Marlys Vandekamp
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