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Fallen Arches What To Look For

Overview

Flat Feet

Fallen arches, also called flat feet or pes planus, is a condition in which the entire bottom of the foot touches the ground when a person is standing. A normal foot has an arch between the heel and the ball of the foot. Fallen arches are typically an acquired condition, though flat feet may be present from childhood if the arch never developed in the first place. In some cases, usually those in which the arch never developed, flat feet are not a cause for concern. If they develop in adulthood, however, causing a rigid flat foot, the condition is usually accompanied by pain and can cause serious health issues.

Causes

Over-pronation is a common biomechanical problem that occurs when the arches collapse while walking or standing. This condition hampers our natural walking pattern, causing an imbalance, and leading to wear and tear in other parts of the body with every step we take. Whether you suffer from over-pronation like most of the population, or you have a true flat foot, in both cases your poor walking pattern may contribute to a range of different complaints. As we age, poor aligment of the feet causes very common conditions such as heel pain or knee pain. Over-pronation has different causes. Obesity, pregnancy, age or repetitive pounding on a hard surface can weaken the arch, leading to over-pronation. Over-pronation is also very common with athletes, especially runners, who most of them nowadays use orthotics inside their shoes.

Symptoms

Some people have fallen arches, and they aren?t even aware of it, fallen arches are sometimes asymptomatic and do not always cause pain. However, for others, the following symptoms may be present. Foot pain, particularly in the arches or heels, leg or back pain, feet feel tired quickly, swelling in the feet and difficulty moving the feet.

Diagnosis

Many medical professionals can diagnose a flat foot by examining the patient standing or just looking at them. On going up onto tip toe the deformity will correct when this is a flexible flat foot in a child with lax joints. Such correction is not seen in the adult with a rigid flat foot. An easy and traditional home diagnosis is the "wet footprint" test, performed by wetting the feet in water and then standing on a smooth, level surface such as smooth concrete or thin cardboard or heavy paper. Usually, the more the sole of the foot that makes contact (leaves a footprint), the flatter the foot. In more extreme cases, known as a kinked flatfoot, the entire inner edge of the footprint may actually bulge outward, where in a normal to high arch this part of the sole of the foot does not make contact with the ground at all.

Can you fix a fallen arch?

Non Surgical Treatment

Treatment often consists of giving the affected foot support from underneath so that the strain is taken off it (by the use of insoles or support pads) and so symptoms are relieved. A specialist in this problem is known as a podiatrist and these do work in the NHS - ask you father's doctor whether his condition is bad enough to warrant a referral to such a specialist.

Surgical Treatment

Adult Acquired Flat Foot

Surgery for flat feet is separated into three kinds: soft tissue procedures, bone cuts, and bone fusions. Depending on the severity of the flat foot, a person?s age, and whether or not the foot is stiff determines just how the foot can be fixed. In most cases a combination of procedures are performed. With flexible flat feet, surgery is geared at maintaining the motion of the foot and recreating the arch. Commonly this may involve tendon repairs along the inside of the foot to reinforce the main tendon that lifts the arch. When the bone collapse is significant, bone procedures are included to physically rebuild the arch, and realign the heel. The presence of bunions with flat feet is often contributing to the collapse and in most situations requires correction. With rigid flat feet, surgery is focused on restoring the shape of the foot through procedures that eliminate motion. In this case, motion does not exist pre-operatively, so realigning the foot is of utmost importance. The exception, are rigid flat feet due to tarsal coalition (fused segment of bone) in the back of the foot where freeing the blockage can restore function.

Prevention

Sit up straight in a chair with your feet flat on the ground. Scrunch up the toes of one foot as if you are trying to grab hold of the floor then use your toes to drag your foot a small distance forwards. Do this a couple of times on each foot, but don?t use your leg muscles to push your foot forward -- the movement should come solely from the muscles in your feet. Sit in a chair and place a cleaning cloth, towel or small ball on the floor at your feet. Use the toes of one foot to grasp the object and lift it off the floor. This action will require you to clench your toes and contract your arch. Once you have lifted the object a little way off the floor, try to throw it in the air and catch it by stretching your toes and arch out and upwards. Repeat the exercise several times on both feet. Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you then bend your knees out to either side and place the soles of your feet together so your legs form a diamond. Hold on to your ankles and, keeping your heels together at all times, separate your feet so your toes point out to either side. Open and close your feet in this way several times, making sure your little toes stay in contact with the floor throughout the exercise. Starting in the same position, try separating your heels, keeping your toes together at all times.
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