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Fallen Arches Explained

Fallen Arches Explained

Overview
Flat Foot
The term 'fallen arches' is rather a historical one, but is one many people seem to have heard of. What it essentially refers to is a ligament problem in the sole of his foot where these run along its length. In most people these ligaments provide support to the foot when walking and help keep the foot in a normal anatomical position. Some people however seem to have laxity in these ligaments so the foot becomes under undue strain and pain can occur as a result.

Causes
Abnormal development of the foot, producing Pes Planus, may be due to neurological problems, eg cerebral palsy, polio. Bony or ligamentous abnormalities, eg tarsal coalition (fusion of tarsal bones), accessory navicular bone. A small proportion of flexible flat feet do not correct with growth. Some of these may become rigid if the Pes Planus leads to bony changes.

Symptoms
Most people do not exhibit any symptoms of flat feet, but if the condition is due to an underlying problem, symptoms can include foot pain, mainly in the arch or heel areas, difficulty standing on tiptoes, swelling that occurs on the inside of the ankle, pain in the calf, knee, hip, or lower leg area, both feet lie flat on the ground with no gap, Shoes may not fit properly, heel may tilt away from the midline of the body more than usual, absence of foot arch when standing. If you are experiencing these symptoms and have flat feet, you should consider seeing your doctor or a podiatrist immediately for an examination.

Diagnosis
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 Why is my Achilles tendon burning? suspected, a CT scan is often ordered. If a posterior tibial tendon injury is suspected, your health care provider may recommend an MRI.

Non Surgical Treatment
Get shoes made for walking or running. One way to support your arch is to wear good-quality running or walking shoes, says Dr. Gastwirth. "These shoes generally provide good support to the foot." Add support. The top-of-the-line arch support is an orthotic insole, which may cost $900 or more and must be custom-made. "But many people with sore arches will get relief with over-the-counter arch supports for about $10," suggests Judith Smith, M.D., assistant professor of orthopedic surgery at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta. "The thing to remember about arch supports is that your shoe must have enough depth to accommodate them. Otherwise, you'll get a lot of rubbing on the top of your foot, or your heel will come out of the shoe." Most mens shoes are deep enough to accommodate the insoles; women should take their shoes with them to the drugstore when buying the insoles to ensure a good fit. If your heels are high, keep them wide. High heels may be your Achilles' heel--especially if you wear them constantly. "Flatter shoes are no doubt better," says Dr. Sanfilippo. Flat heels help prevent fallen arches and are kinder to your feet if fallen arches have already occurred. "If you must wear high heels, choose styles with a wide heel. Stay away from stiletto heels."

Surgical Treatment
Flat Foot
Rarely does the physician use surgery to correct a foot that is congenitally flat, which typically does not cause pain. If the patient has a fallen arch that is painful, though, the foot and ankle physicians at Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush may perform surgery to reconstruct the tendon and "lift up" the fallen arch. This requires a combination of tendon re-routing procedures, ligament repairs, and bone cutting or fusion procedures.

Prevention
Wear Supportive Footwear. Spend the money it takes to get proper fitting and quality footwear with good arch supports. Most sufferers of fallen arches and plantar fasciitis are born with high arches that sag as they get older. Good footwear can prevent this from becoming a problem. Flat feet, however, can become just as problematic. So, really we should all be wearing good footwear to avoid this potentially painful condition. Take It Easy. If your heel starts to hurt, take a rest. If the pain doesn?t go away after several days of resting, it may be time to see a podiatrist. Orthotics. Special insoles to support the arch of the foot can provide some much needed help. You can buy these at your local drugstore (not recommended), or you can have them specially made and custom fit for your feet. It can take awhile to get just the right one for your foot, but sometimes it can be just what you needed. Weight Control. Yes, maintaining a sensible diet with your ideal weight can be beneficial in many ways. It makes sense to think that the more weight your arches are supporting, the more easily they will fall and become painful.

After Care
Patients may go home the day of surgery or they may require an overnight hospital stay. The leg will be placed in a splint or cast and should be kept elevated for the first two weeks. At that point, sutures are removed. A new cast or a removable boot is then placed. It is important that patients do not put any weight on the corrected foot for six to eight weeks following the operation. Patients may begin bearing weight at eight weeks and usually progress to full weightbearing by 10 to 12 weeks. For some patients, weightbearing requires additional time. After 12 weeks, patients commonly can transition to wearing a shoe. Inserts and ankle braces are often used. Physical therapy may be recommended. There are complications that relate to surgery in general. These include the risks associated with anesthesia, infection, damage to nerves and blood vessels, and bleeding or blood clots. Complications following flatfoot surgery may include wound breakdown or nonunion (incomplete healing of the bones). These complications often can be prevented with proper wound care and rehabilitation. Occasionally, patients may notice some discomfort due to prominent hardware. Removal of hardware can be done at a later time if this is an issue. The overall complication rates for flatfoot surgery are low.
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