Most flat feet are not painful, particularly those flat feet seen in children. In the adult acquired flatfoot, pain occurs because soft tissues (tendons and ligaments) have been torn. The deformity progresses or worsens because once the vital ligaments and posterior tibial tendon are lost, nothing can take their place to hold up the arch of the foot. The painful, progressive adult acquired flatfoot affects women four times as frequently as men. It occurs in middle to older age people with a mean age of 60 years. Most people who develop the condition already have flat feet. A change occurs in one foot where the arch begins to flatten more than before, with pain and swelling developing on the inside of the ankle. Why this event occurs in some people (female more than male) and only in one foot remains poorly understood. Contributing factors increasing the risk of adult acquired flatfoot are diabetes, hypertension, and obesity.
Recent research has found a link with changes to the tendon in the foot and an increase in a type of protein called proteolytic enzyme. These enzymes can break down some areas of the tendon, weakening it and causing the foot arch to fall. Similar changes are also seen in other conditions, such as Achilles tendonitis. This could have important implications for treating flat feet because medication that specifically targets these enzymes could provide an alternative to surgery. However, further research is needed and this type of treatment is thought to be about 10 to 15 years away.
Persistant pain and selling under the ball of the foot and extending towards the toes (most commonly the 2nd). Some swelling may be disable on the top of the foot along with redness. Often a sensation of ‘walking on the bones for the foot’ will be described, and there is a positive Lachman’s test. Often a tear will result in the toes splaying (daylight sign) and clawing.
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
Treatment must be directed to supporting the individual bones and joints which make up the arch, and to aid the arch in its job as a shock absorber. This in turn alleviates the arch pain, and prevents the further collapse of the arch. This is accomplished through the use of either a high quality arch support or custom-made orthotics. These devices support not only the arch, but each individual bone and joint which makes up the arch; and because of the space-age materials used in their construction, allow the arch to become a much more efficient shock absorber. This not only relieves the arch pain, but also prevents it from returning, and keeps the arch from collapsing further.
A procedure that involves placing a metallic implant (most commonly) at the junction where the foot meets the ankle. This device causes the physical blockade that prevent the collapse. It is a procedure that is only indicated for mobile feet, and should not be used with rigid flat feet. Dr. Blitz finds this procedure better for younger patients with flexible flat feet where the bone alignment is still developing so that the foot can adapt to function in a better aligned position.
Because most cases of flatfeet are inherited, the condition is usually impossible to prevent. Even when children with flexible flatfeet are treated with arch supports and corrective shoes, there is little evidence that these devices prevent the condition from lasting into adulthood.
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