Pain across the bottom of the foot at any point between the heel and the ball of the foot is often referred to as "arch pain." Although this description is non-specific, most arch pain is due to strain or inflammation of the plantar fascia (a long ligament on the bottom of the foot). This condition is known as plantar fasciitis and is sometimes associated with a heel spur. In most cases, arch pain develops from overuse, unsupportive shoes, weight gain, or acute injury. If arch pain persists beyond a few days, see a foot and ankle surgeon for treatment to prevent this condition from becoming worse.
The most common acquired flat foot in adults is due to Posterior Tibial Tendon Dysfunction. This develops with repetitive stress on the main supporting tendon of the arch over a long period of time. As the body ages, ligaments and muscles can weaken, leaving the job of supporting the arch all to this tendon. The tendon cannot hold all the weight for long, and it gradually gives out, leading to a progressively lower arch. This form of flat foot is often accompanied by pain radiating behind the ankle, consistent with the course of the posterior tibial tendon. Compounding matters is the fact that the human foot was not originally designed to withstand the types of terrain and forces it is subjected to today. Nowhere in nature do you see the flat hard surfaces that we so commonly walk on in present times. Walking on this type of surface continuously puts unnatural stress on the arch. The fact that the average American is overweight does not help the arch much either-obesity is a leading cause of flat feet as the arch collapses under the excessive bodyweight. Furthermore, the average life span has increased dramatically in the last century, meaning that not only does the arch deal with heavy weight on hard flat ground, but also must now do so for longer periods of time. These are all reasons to take extra care of our feet now in order to prevent problems later.
Go to a podiatrist at the first sign of symptoms. Besides pain on the bottom of the foot, additional symptoms may include burning sensation in arch, difficulty standing on tiptoes, inflammation, more pain after sleeping or resting, redness, heat, localized pain in the ball of the foot, sharp or shooting pain in the toes, pain that increases when toes are flexed, tingling or numbness in the toes, aching, pain that increases when walking barefoot, pain that increases when walking on hard surfaces, pain the increases when standing (putting weight on your feet) or moving around and decreases when immobile, skin Lesions, it?s important to get a proper diagnosis and treatment plan. Let?s go over the possible causes of the pain.
Your doctor may order imaging tests to help make sure your heel pain is caused by plantar fasciitis and not another problem. X-rays provide clear images of bones. They are useful in ruling out other causes of heel pain, such as fractures or arthritis. Heel spurs can be seen on an x-ray. Other imaging tests, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and ultrasound, are not routinely used to diagnose plantar fasciitis. They are rarely ordered. An MRI scan may be used if the heel pain is not relieved by initial treatment methods.
Non Surgical Treatment
Tight arches, overpronation and flat feet as well as tight calves all lead to inflammation of the connective tissue that forms this arch of your foot. This condition, plantar fasciitis, can be very painful, from your first step in the morning. Fortunately, treatment is easier than most. No operations, no fancy pulsed waves, no night splints necessary. Good arch supports? full length flexible (not hard) orthotics are key. Stretches of the calf relieve arch tightness as the heel bone acts like a fulcrum pulling back the arch tissues if too tight. Regularly perform the gastroc and soleus stretches that you learned at the gym. If lazy, buy "Pro-Stretch" on line which helps you stretch your calves easily. Use it often. You can't stretch too often, only too little. Finally, the magic cure is to roll a golf ball under the arch for half-hour once a day. (I know; a half-hour is a long time to perform one exercise, but that's what it takes. Once you master this exercise, it is easy to do while you work at your desk or are watching a half hour TV program.) This may hurt the first week. Keep going because by week two, after you go over the pain hump, the pain will be gone.
Surgery is considered only after 12 months of aggressive nonsurgical treatment. Gastrocnemius recession. This is a surgical lengthening of the calf (gastrocnemius) muscles. Because tight calf muscles place increased stress on the plantar fascia, this procedure is useful for patients who still have difficulty flexing their feet, despite a year of calf stretches. In gastrocnemius recession, one of the two muscles that make up the calf is lengthened to increase the motion of the ankle. The procedure can be performed with a traditional, open incision or with a smaller incision and an endoscope, an instrument that contains a small camera. Your doctor will discuss the procedure that best meets your needs. Complication rates for gastrocnemius recession are low, but can include nerve damage. Plantar fascia release. If you have a normal range of ankle motion and continued heel pain, your doctor may recommend a partial release procedure. During surgery, the plantar fascia ligament is partially cut to relieve tension in the tissue. If you have a large bone spur, it will be removed, as well. Although the surgery can be performed endoscopically, it is more difficult than with an open incision. In addition, endoscopy has a higher risk of nerve damage. The most common complications of release surgery include incomplete relief of pain and nerve damage. Most patients have good results from surgery. However, because surgery can result in chronic pain and dissatisfaction, it is recommended only after all nonsurgical measures have been exhausted.
Early in the treatment of arch pain, consideration needs to be given to the cause and strategies put in place to prevent it happening again. Advice should be sought on the adequacy of footwear. Stretching exercises should be continued long after the symptoms are gone. Foot orthoses should be used if structural imbalances are present. Activity levels and types of activities (occupational and sporting) need to be considered and modified accordingly.
Achilles stretch. Stand with the ball of one foot on a stair. Reach for the step below with your heel until you feel a stretch in the arch of your foot. Hold this position for 15 to 30 seconds and then relax. Repeat 3 times. Balance and reach exercises. Stand next to a chair with your injured leg farther from the chair. The chair will provide support if you need it. Stand on the foot of your injured leg and bend your knee slightly. Try to raise the arch of this foot while keeping your big toe on the floor. Keep your foot in this position. With the hand that is farther away from the chair, reach forward in front of you by bending at the waist. Avoid bending your knee any more as you do this. Repeat this 15 times. To make the exercise more challenging, reach farther in front of you. Do 2 sets of 15. While keeping your arch raised, reach the hand that is farther away from the chair across your body toward the chair. The farther you reach, the more challenging the exercise. Do 2 sets of 15. Towel pickup. With your heel on the ground, pick up a towel with your toes. Release. Repeat 10 to 20 times. When this gets easy, add more resistance by placing a book or small weight on the towel. Resisted ankle plantar flexion. Sit with your injured leg stretched out in front of you. Loop the tubing around the ball of your foot. Hold the ends of the tubing with both hands. Gently press the ball of your foot down and point your toes, stretching the tubing. Return to the starting position. Do 2 sets of 15. Resisted ankle dorsiflexion. Tie a knot in one end of the elastic tubing and shut the knot in a door. Tie a loop in the other end of the tubing and put the foot on your injured side through the loop so that the tubing goes around the top of the foot. Sit facing the door with your injured leg straight out in front of you. Move away from the door until there is tension in the tubing. Keeping your leg straight, pull the top of your foot toward your body, stretching the tubing. Slowly return to the starting position. Do 2 sets of 15. Heel raise. Stand behind a chair or counter with both feet flat on the floor. Using the chair or counter as a support, rise up onto your toes and hold for 5 seconds. Then slowly lower yourself down without holding onto the support. (It's OK to keep holding onto the support if you need to.) When this exercise becomes less painful, try doing this exercise while you are standing on the injured leg only. Repeat 15 times. Do 2 sets of 15. Rest 30 seconds between sets.