Flat feet is the most common foot deformity known. In fact, sixty million Americans or 25% of the U.S. population have flat feet. Some of these people may experience problems that limit their activities, while others can run marathons or play in the NBA.
Training on improper, hard and/or irregular surfaces as well as excessive track work in spiked shoes, or steep hill running, can stress the plantar fascia past its limits of elasticity, leading to injury. Finally, failure in the early season to warm up gradually gives the athlete insufficient time for the structures of the foot to re-acclimate and return to a proper fitness level for intensive exercise. Such unprepared and repeated trauma causes microscopic tearing, which may only be detected once full-blown plantar fasciitis and accompanying pain and debilitation have resulted.
Many people have no symptoms, and the condition is discovered only by chance when an X-ray of the foot is obtained for some other problem. When symptoms occur, there is usually foot pain that begins at the outside rear of the foot. The pain tends to spread upward to the outer ankle and to the outside portion of the lower leg. Symptoms usually start during a child's teenage years and are aggravated by playing sports or walking on uneven ground. In some cases, the condition is discovered when a child is evaluated for unusually frequent ankle sprains.
A professional therapist may use tinels test to diagnose tarsal tunnel syndrome. This involves tapping the nerve just behind the medial malleolus or bony bit of the ankle with a rubber hammer. Pain indicates a positive test. Sometimes it is initially mistaken for plantar fasciitis which also causes pain from the inside heel and throughout the arch of the foot. Neural symptoms (such as tingling or numbness) as well as the location of tenderness when touching the area should help to easily distinguish between the conditions.
Non Surgical Treatment
Treatment must be directed to supporting the individual bones and joints which make up the arch, and to aid the arch in its job as a shock absorber. This in turn alleviates the arch pain, and prevents the further collapse of the arch. This is accomplished through the use of either a high quality arch support or custom-made orthotics. These devices support not only the arch, but each individual bone and joint which makes up the arch; and because of the space-age materials used in their construction, allow the arch to become a much more efficient shock absorber. This not only relieves the arch pain, but also prevents it from returning, and keeps the arch from collapsing further.
As with most surgeries, patients and physicians should consider the surgery only after other, less invasive treatments have proven unproductive. Indications for surgery include Pain. Inability to function. Failure to improve after a six-month course of specific, directed physical therapy. Failure to improve after using arch supports, orthotics, or ankle and foot bracing. Once patients are at that point, the good news is that the procedure has considerably better outcomes than more traditional flat foot surgery. In the past, surgeons would realign and fuse the three hind joints, which would cause patients to lose motion, leaving them with a significantly stiff hind foot, With these newer procedures, if the foot is still flexible, surgeons can realign it and usually restore a close-to-normal or functional range of motion in the joints.
The best way to prevent plantar fasciitis is to wear shoes that are well made and fit your feet. This is especially important when you exercise, walk a lot, or stand for a long time on hard surfaces. Get new athletic shoes before your old shoes stop supporting and cushioning your feet. You should also avoid repeated jarring to the heel. Maintain a healthy weight. Stretch when you feel a tightening of the ligament that runs along the bottom of your foot. Stop impact sports when symptoms first occur.
Point your toes. To ease foot pain and aching in your feet, lift one foot and roll it downward until the toes are pointed toward the ground. Then flex your foot. Repeat using the other foot. This exercise will help stretch out all the small muscles that are on the bottom of your feet, which can help relieve aching and improve blood circulation. Raise your heels. This exercise is good for relieving toe cramps caused by standing for hours in constricting shoes, says Kurtz. Bonus: It can also strengthen calf muscles and make them look more defined. Stand up and lift your heels so that you are standing on the balls of your feet. Hold for 10 seconds. Repeat 10 times. Squeeze your toes. To strengthen the toes and help alleviate foot pain from hammertoes (when a toe resembles a claw), separate your toes using corks or foam toe separators and then squeeze your toes together for five seconds. Repeat 10 times. Roll a ball. Want to create an instant massage for the bottom of your feet? Roll a golf ball or tennis ball under the ball of your foot. Apply light pressure for about two minutes. This exercise can be helpful for arch pain, cramps, and heel pain from plantar fasciitis. Stretch standing up. A weight-bearing, runners-type stretch can be helpful for foot pain in the arch. Stand up and place your toes against a wall; lean forward a little until you feel your arch stretch. Repeat using the other foot. Stretch sitting down. Sit barefoot and cross your left leg so that your ankle rests on your right thigh. Then hold your toes and bend them back toward your shin, stretching the band of tissue connecting the bottom of the heel to the ball. A University of Rochester study found that people living with plantar fasciitis had a 75 percent chance of having no pain within three to six months of performing this stretch three times daily. Give yourself a foot massage. Nothing spells pain relief like a good foot rub. Use the following technique recommended by Rhonda Crockett, a licensed massage therapist at Ohio State University?s Center for Integrative Medicine in Columbus. Start with your toes, using your thumb to massage them in circular motions. Then move to the arch under your foot and gradually work your way down to the heel, applying pressure with your fingers and palm of your hand. Use lotion to allow your hand to move smoothly over your foot. Relax in a warm bath with Epsom salts. The combination of warm water and Epsom salts will give you a double dose of pain relief and relaxation. Magnesium sulfate, the key compound in Epsom salts, has been found to relax muscles, reduce pain, and sedate the nervous system. Plus, warm water helps improve circulation in the feet and relieve muscle pain. Crockett recommends adding two cups of Epsom salts to a warm bath and soaking for 20 minutes.