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Fallen Arches Explained

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Acquired Flat Feet

If you take a close look an adult foot (from the inside) you will notice an inward/upward curve at the center. This curve is known as an arch, and it?s formed by tendons in the foot and lower leg attached at the heel and foot bones. When these tendons pull and attach normally, the foot forms a normal arch. When the tendons don?t pull together properly, they don?t form any arch. This results in flat feet popularly known as fallen arches.

Causes

Most commonly fallen arches in adulthood can arise due to Posterior Tibial Tendon Dysfunction (PTTD). The posterior tibial tendon plays a pivotal role in holding up the arch of the foot, damage to this tendon results in the arch collapsing. Another cause of acquired flat feet in adulthood may be due to Rheumatoid arthritis as this disease attacks the bone, cartilage and ligaments in the foot causing it to change shape and flatten. Injury to the ligament, fracture and/or dislocation of the bones in the mid foot can all lead to a flat foot deformity. Adult acquired flat fleet can also arise in people who have diabetes or a neurological condition which limits normal feeling in the foot, the muscles in feet switch off, the tendons and ligaments weaken, and the arch eventually collapses.

Symptoms

Pain and stiffness of the medial arch or anywhere along the mid-portion of the foot. Associated discomfort within and near the ankle joint. The knees, hips, and lower back may be the primary source of discomfort. Feet may often feel tired and achy. Painful shin splints may develop with activity. Gait may be awkward.

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

During walking and running, there is a small natural inward drop (slight pronation) that is part of the spring and propulsion. Allowing exaggerated sagging is like rounding your shoulders too much. Legs and feet have posture that you can control yourself. Use your own muscles and get free built-in exercise and arch support all day, and stop painful poor positioning. Some people with existing abnormality or growths in the ball of the foot will roll inward (or outward) to get the pressure off the deformed area because standing straight hurts. See your doctor first. Remember, don't force. If it hurts, it's wrong. All you are doing is learning how to stand neutral, not tilted so much that you compress the joints. The concept is to hold your feet in the same healthful position that shoe supports would. It is like an ice skater holds their skates straight at the ankle, not angled.

Surgical Treatment

Flat Feet

Common indications for surgery are cerebral palsy with an equinovalgus foot, to prevent progression and breakdown of the midfoot. Rigid and painful Pes Planus. To prevent progression, eg with a Charcot joint. Tibialis posterior dysfunction, where non-surgical treatment is unsuccessful. Possible surgical procedures include Achilles tendon lengthening. Calcaneal osteotomy, to re-align the hindfoot. Reconstruction of the tibialis posterior tendon. For severe midfoot collapse of the arch, triple arthrodesis may be indicated.

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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