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Fallen Arches Explained

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Flat Foot

A quarter of Americans have flat feet. While most people with flat feet don't have serious problems as a result, for some, flat feet can cause disabling foot pain as well as knee pain, shin splints, Achilles tendinitis, and plantar fasciitis. A person with foot or leg pain should pay particular attention to whether one foot is flatter than the other.

Causes

Family history, experts say fallen arches can run in families. Weak arch, the arch of the foot may be there when no weight is placed on it, for example, when the person is sitting. But as soon as they stand up the foot flattens (falls) onto the ground. Injury, arthritis, tibialis posterior (ruptured tendon), pregnancy, nervous system or muscle diseases, such as cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, or spina bifida. Tarsal Coalition, the bones of the foot fuse together in an unusual way, resulting in stiff and flat feet. Most commonly diagnosed during childhood. Diabetes. Age and wear and tear, years of using your feet to walk, run, and jump eventually may take its toll. One of the eventual consequences could be fallen arches. The posterior tibial tendon may become weakened after long-term wear a tear. The postario tibial tendon is the main support structure of the arch of our feet. The tendon can become inflamed (tendinitis) after overuse - sometimes it can even become torn. Once the tendon is damaged, the arch shape of the foot may flatten.

Symptoms

A significant number of people with fallen arches (flat feet) experience no pain and have no problems. Some, however, may experience pain in their feet, especially when the connecting ligaments and muscles are strained. The leg joints may also be affected, resulting in pain. If the ankles turn inwards because of flat feet the most likely affected areas will be the feet, ankles and knees. Some people have flat feet because of a developmental fault during childhood, while others may find that the problem develops as they age, or after a pregnancy. There are some simple devices which may prevent the complications of flat feet.

Diagnosis

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical and foot exam will be done. Flat feet can be diagnosed by appearance. To determine if the foot is rigid, you may be asked to do some simple tasks.

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Non Surgical Treatment

Custom orthotics are specially designed insoles, which are made for your by prescription. This is done by taking a plaster cast of the foot in its neutral position and is then sent to a laboratory, with your prescription to be made to your exact specifications. The insole then correctly aligns your foot and as a result your body. This will relieve abnormal strain of tissues and structures which can cause pain. For less severe mal-alignments or for sports use a wide variety of temporary insoles.

Surgical Treatment

Flat Feet

Surgical procedures for flat feet vary depending on the root cause of the condition. Surgical correction to control pronation may include bone implants or Achilles tendon lengthening. Tendon transfer, which is a procedure to re-attach a tendon to another area of bone, may also be used to reduce pronation and improve foot 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.

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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