Flat feet can also develop as an adult ("adult acquired flatfoot") due to injury, illness, unusual or prolonged stress to the foot, faulty biomechanics or as part of the normal aging process. This is most common in women over 40 years of age. Known risk factors include obesity, hypertension and diabetes.Flat feet can also occur in pregnant women as a result of temporary changes, due to increased elastin (elasticity) during pregnancy. However, if developed by adulthood, flat feet generally remain flat permanently.
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.
Many people have flat feet and notice no problems and require no treatment. But others may experience the following symptoms, Feet tire easily, painful or achy feet, especially in the areas of the arches and heels, the inside bottom of your feet become swollen, foot movement, such as standing on your toes, is difficult, back and leg pain, If you notice any of these symptoms, it's time for a trip to the doctor.
An examination of the foot is enough for the health care provider to diagnose flat foot. However, the cause must be determined. If an arch develops when the patient stands on his or her toes, the flat foot is called flexible and no treatment or further work-up is necessary. If there is pain associated with the foot or if the arch does not develop with toe-standing, x-rays are necessary. If a tarsal coalition is suspected, a CT scan is often ordered. If a posterior tibial tendon injury is suspected, your health care provider may recommend an MRI.
Can you fix a fallen arch?
Non Surgical Treatment
If you have fallen arches, but you are not experiencing any symptoms, then you probably do not need to seek treatment. If you are experiencing discomfort due to fallen arches, there are several treatment options. These treatment options include elevating the feet and applying ice to ease discomfort and reduce swelling, rest, exercises to stretch the feet, physical therapy, medication, such as anti-inflammatories, steroid injections and orthotic devices or customised arch supportsto wear in the shoes. If you have fallen arches and periodically experience pain related to that condition, it is a good idea to get orthotic devicesor custom arch supports, to wear in your shoes. The other treatment options, like medication and ice, will help to ease pain from fallen arches after you have already begun to experience pain. However, orthotic devices or(custom arch supports)can help to prevent pain from occurring at all. This preventative measure helps many people with fallen arches to avoid pain and prevent worsening of their condition. In severe cases of fallen arches, surgery may be required to correct the problem. You can also help to prevent pain and exacerbation of fallen arches by reducing your risk factors. If you are overweight, try to lose weight. Even a small weight loss can reduce the pressure on your feet significantly. If you are diabetic, manage your blood sugar as best as possible. Losing weight often also improves the condition of diabetics. You should also avoid high-impact activities, like running on the road, tennis, and sports that involve jumping. Try a gentler form of exercise, like swimming, instead. If you have fallen arches, orthotic devices or(custom arch supports)are an important component of your treatment and can help to prevent pain.
Surgical correction is dependent on the severity of symptoms and the stage of deformity. The goals of surgery are to create a more functional and stable foot. There are multiple procedures available to the surgeon and it may take several to correct a flatfoot deformity. Stage one deformities usually respond to conservative or non-surgical therapy such as anti-inflammatory medication, casting, functional orthotics or a foot ankle orthosis called a Richie Brace. If these modalities are unsuccessful surgery is warranted. Usually surgical treatment begins with removal of inflammatory tissue and repair of the posterior tibial tendon. A tendon transfer is performed if the posterior tibial muscle is weak or the tendon is badly damaged. The most commonly used tendon is the flexor digitorum longus tendon. This tendon flexes or moves the lesser toes downward. The flexor digitorum longus tendon is utilized due to its close proximity to the posterior tibial tendon and because there are minimal side effects with its loss. The remainder of the tendon is sutured to the flexor hallucis longus tendon that flexes the big toe so that little function is loss. Stage two deformities are less responsive to conservative therapies that can be effective in mild deformities. Bone procedures are necessary at this stage in order to recreate the arch and stabilize the foot. These procedures include isolated fusion procedures, bone grafts, and/or the repositioning of bones through cuts called osteotomies. The realigned bones are generally held in place with screws, pins, plates, or staples while the bone heals. A tendon transfer may or may not be utilized depending on the condition of the posterior tibial tendon. Stage three deformities are better treated with surgical correction, in healthy patients. Patients that are unable to tolerate surgery or the prolonged healing period are better served with either arch supports known as orthotics or bracing such as the Richie Brace. Surgical correction at this stage usually requires fusion procedures such as a triple or double arthrodesis. This involves fusing the two or three major bones in the back of the foot together with screws or pins. The most common joints fused together are the subtalar joint, talonavicular joint, and the calcaneocuboid joint. By fusing the bones together the surgeon is able to correct structural deformity and alleviate arthritic pain. Tendon transfer procedures are usually not beneficial at this stage. Stage four deformities are treated similarly but with the addition of fusing the ankle joint.