Arch Pain Causes Indicators And Treatment Methods

Overview

The elastic covering on the sole of the foot--the plantar fascia--runs the length of the foot and holds up the arch. When this shock-absorbing pad becomes inflamed, this is called plantar fasciitis, causing a dull ache along the length of the arch. The ache is due to over-stretching or partially tearing the arch pad. This happens most often to people with rigid, high arches. They feel the pain when they put weight on their foot or when pushing off for the next stride. Pain is particularly intense upon arising or after sitting for a long while. Plantar fasciitis is particularly common among middle-aged people who have been sedentary and who suddenly increase their level of physical activity. Runners are most susceptible, but almost any sport that keeps the athlete standing can lead to arch pain. Inappropriately fitting shoes or a weight gain of 10 to 20 pounds can also contribute to the condition.

Arch Pain




Causes

Sprains, strains, bruises, and fractures may be the result of a single stress or a combination of stresses to the foot. A blunt-force injury such as someone stepping on your foot may result not only in a bruise (contusion), but also in damage to the primary and secondary structures of the foot. Many of the muscles of the lower leg and foot attach on or near the arch. Injured or tight muscles may lead to incorrect biomechanics and in turn cause arch pain. Injury to the bones of the foot can be caused by a single blow or twist to the arch or also by repetitive trauma, which can result in a stress fracture. A sprain of the arch occurs when the ligaments which hold the bones together are overstretched and the fibers tear. The muscles of the foot may be strained by overstretching, overuse, overloading, bruising, or being cut by stepping on a sharp object. Arthritis of the arch joints may also occur if the foot is subjected to repetitive movements that stress the arch.




Symptoms

Typically, the sufferer of plantar fasciitis experiences pain upon rising after sleep, particularly the first step out of bed. Such pain is tightly localized at the bony landmark on the anterior medial tubercle of the calcaneus. In some cases, pain may prevent the athlete from walking in a normal heel-toe gait, causing an irregular walk as means of compensation. Less common areas of pain include the forefoot, Achilles tendon, or subtalar joint. After a brief period of walking, the pain usually subsides, but returns again either with vigorous activity or prolonged standing or walking. On the field, an altered gait or abnormal stride pattern, along with pain during running or jumping activities are tell-tale signs of plantar fasciitis and should be given prompt attention. Further indications of the injury include poor dorsiflexion (lifting the forefoot off the ground) due to a shortened gastroc complex, (muscles of the calf). Crouching in a full squat position with the sole of the foot flat on the ground can be used as a test, as pain will preclude it for the athlete suffering from plantar fasciitis, causing an elevation of the heel due to tension in the gastroc complex.




Diagnosis

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) can show tendon injury and inflammation but cannot be relied on with 100% accuracy and confidence. The technique and skill of the radiologist in properly positioning the foot with the MRI beam are critical in demonstrating the sometimes obscure findings of tendon injury around the ankle. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is expensive and is not necessary in most cases to diagnose posterior tibial tendon injury. Ultrasound has also been used in some cases to diagnose tendon injury, but this test again is usually not required to make the initial diagnosis.




Non Surgical Treatment

In mild cases of flatfoot the first line of treatment is often custom orthotics. In patients with a flexible deformity, supporting the arch with a custom arch support will take the strain off the joints and muscles, bringing the heel into a corrected position. Wider shoe gear may be prescribed to accommodate foot pain and motion and stretching exercises to decrease stiffness and stress on the foot. In cases of severe collapse, especially if the patient is not a good surgical candidate or has a mild tear, a brace may be made to accommodate the foot and ankle, thus supporting the arch and ankle.

Foot Arch Pain




Surgical Treatment

Surgery is considered only after 12 months of aggressive nonsurgical treatment. Gastrocnemius recession. This is a surgical lengthening of the calf (gastrocnemius) muscles. Because tight calf muscles place increased stress on the plantar fascia, this procedure is useful for patients who still have difficulty flexing their feet, despite a year of calf stretches. In gastrocnemius recession, one of the two muscles that make up the calf is lengthened to increase the motion of the ankle. The procedure can be performed with a traditional, open incision or with a smaller incision and an endoscope, an instrument that contains a small camera. Your doctor will discuss the procedure that best meets your needs. Complication rates for gastrocnemius recession are low, but can include nerve damage. Plantar fascia release. If you have a normal range of ankle motion and continued heel pain, your doctor may recommend a partial release procedure. During surgery, the plantar fascia ligament is partially cut to relieve tension in the tissue. If you have a large bone spur, it will be removed, as well. Although the surgery can be performed endoscopically, it is more difficult than with an open incision. In addition, endoscopy has a higher risk of nerve damage. The most common complications of release surgery include incomplete relief of pain and nerve damage. Most patients have good results from surgery. However, because surgery can result in chronic pain and dissatisfaction, it is recommended only after all nonsurgical measures have been exhausted.




Prevention

Stretch and strengthen important muscles in your feet, ankles and legs in order to guard against future strain. Make sure to acquire suitable arch supports and inserts if necessary, and that your shoes are shock absorbent and in good condition. Wearing tattered shoes provides no protection, and runners should replace their footwear before exceeding 500 miles of usage. Athletes new to arch supports should gradually build their training routine, allowing their feet to become accustomed to a new stance.




Stretching Exercises

Flexibility is important in preventing injuries. With a simple stretching exercise, you can rehabilitate the muscles of your foot to relieve arch pain and prevent future injuries. This simple exercise by Tammy White and Phyllis Clapis for Relay Health is a good way to strengthen your foot muscles and stretch your plantar fascia. Sit in a chair and cross one foot over your other knee. Grab the base of your toes and pull them back toward your leg until you feel a comfortable stretch. Hold 15 seconds and repeat three times. When you can stand comfortably on your injured foot, you can begin standing to stretch the plantar fascia at the bottom of your foot.

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