Common Foot and Ankle Problems & Treatments
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The normal arch functions as a shock absorber for our entire body. Each time we step down, we place up to five times our body weight onto the foot, depending on whether we are walking, running, or jumping.
If there were no shock absorber in the foot, the force of each step would eventually fracture or dislocate the bones of the foot, leg, and lower back.
When the arch is flat (a flat foot), it is "sick", and cannot function properly.
If it is left untreated, this will lead to a completely collapsed foot which cannot function as a shock absorber at all. This, in turn, will cause constant pain in the foot and, eventually, the knee, hip and lower back.
Problems caused by flat feet
Structural defects are foot problems that may occur because the bones and joints of the foot are not held together with the normal amount of tension. This allows the bones and joints to move into abnormal positions, causing bunions, hammer toe, neuromas, calluses, and corns.
If these problems are left untreated, they become progressively more painful and debilitating.
Pronation is the most common and damaging medical problem that may occur as a result of flat arches. Pronation is a turning outward of the foot at the ankle, so that one has a tendency to walk on the inner border of the foot.
You can test for pronation by looking at the leg and foot from the back. Normally, you can see the Achilles Tendon run straight down the leg into the heel. If the foot is pronated, the tendon runs straight down the leg, but, when it lies on the heel, it twists outward. This makes the inner ankle bone much more prominent than the outer ankle bone.
Because pronation is a twisting of the foot, all the muscles and tendons which run from the leg and ankle into the foot are twisted.
If left untreated, pronation may be the cause of heel spurs, plantar fasciitis, frequent ankle sprains, shin splints, weak and painful arches, and, eventually, knee, hip and lower back pain.
What causes flat feet?
The normal arch is made up of bones and joints which are held together tightly in a precise relationship. For the arch to flatten, the ligaments and tendons which hold the bones and joints together are more flexible than normal.
This abnormal flexibility may be a result of: the genes we inherit from our parents; the weakening of muscles and ligaments, caused by advancing age; neuromuscular diseases; or injury.
Injuries may include one severe trauma, or years of standing for long periods of time in the wrong types of shoes (those with high heels or those with poor support). This flexibility of the bones, joints, and soft tissues is what causes the foot problems which are related to flat arches or feet.
How can flat feet be treated?
First and foremost, if you have a flat foot or feet, it is medically acceptable to do nothing.
If you are symptomatic, then good shoes, with an arch and a strong heel counter, to keep your foot in a more normal position, may help. If not, orthotics can often provide great relief. They may range from a soft support to one that is very rigid. This can be determined after a thorough examination.
Occasionally, support isn't enough, and surgery can be required to alleviate symptoms.
Foot & Ankle Specialists of the Mid-Atlantic offer reconstructive surgical options that can ultimately decrease pain and improve ambulation. A comprehensive biomechanical examination, along with diagnostic imaging, will determine the procedure that makes sense for you.
Fortunately, some flat feet benefit from a newer procedure, called sub-talar arthroeresis.
This involves the insertion of a bullet-shaped implant between your heel bone and the talus (located between the ankle bones). This blocks the foot's ability to roll inward, without the significant recovery period required for the procedures described previously.
Please contact us to find out if your feet would benefit from treatment.