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Think You Have Fallen Arches?

Overview

Acquired Flat Feet

Having flat feet is also known as having fallen arches, and means the arches of the feet are low or there are no arches. Flat feet may not cause any pain or problems, but strain can be caused to muscles and ligaments making it painful when walking. You can easily test yourself to see if you might have fallen arches or flat feet. Follow these three steps. Get your feet wet. Stand on a flat surface where your footprint will show, such as on grey concrete pavement. Step away and look at the prints. If you see complete imprints of the bottom of your feet on the surface, then you're likely to have flat feet. Many young children have flat feet, a condition referred to as flexible flat feet. When the child stands, the feet look flat. However, when the child rises to his or her toes, a slight arch appears. In most cases, as children grow older, the arches develop.

Causes

Flat feet in adults can appear for a number of reasons. Arches never developed properly. Damage to the tendons that support the arch. Damage or inflammation of the posterior tibial tendon which runs from your lower leg, down and across your ankle, and connects to the middle of the arch. Trauma involving broken bones in the foot. Rheumatoid arthritis. Aging, pregnancy, nerve damage, obesity or even diabetes.

Symptoms

Flat feet can cause a myriad of symptoms, from experiencing pain in the foot, heels, arch, calves, the shin, the knee, the hip and into the lower back due to overworking of the hip flexors or they may find it hard to stand on tip toes.

Diagnosis

People who have flat feet without signs or symptoms that bother them do not generally have to see a doctor or podiatrist about them. However, if any of the following occur, you should see your GP or a podiatrist. The fallen arches (flat feet) have developed recently. You experience pain in your feet, ankles or lower limbs. Your unpleasant symptoms do not improve with supportive, well-fitted shoes. Either or both feet are becoming flatter. Your feet feel rigid (stiff). Your feet feel heavy and unwieldy. Most qualified health care professionals can diagnose flat feet just by watching the patient stand, walk and examining his/her feet. A doctor will also look at the patient's medical history. The feet will be observed from the front and back. The patient may be asked to stand on tip-toe while the doctor examines the shape and functioning of each foot. In some cases the physician may order an X-ray, CT (computed tomography) scan, or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan.

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Non Surgical Treatment

Treatment isn't usually needed for flat feet because the condition doesn't usually cause any significant problems. Aching feet can often be relieved by wearing supportive shoes that fit properly. You may need to wear shoes that are wider than normal. If your feet overpronate, you may need to wear a special insole (an orthotic) inside your shoes to stop your feet rolling inwards when you walk or run. These will usually need to be made and fitted by a podiatrist. Stretching your calf and Achilles tendon may also help as a tight Achilles can make your foot overpronate. To stretch your calf and Achilles tendon, step forwards with your left leg and bend it, with your right leg straight and both feet pointing forwards, push your right heel into the ground while keeping your right leg straight; you should feel the stretch at the back of your right leg, below the knee, hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds and repeat with the opposite leg, repeat the stretch two to four times on each leg, and repeat the overall exercise three to four times a day.

Surgical Treatment

Adult Acquired Flat Feet

This is rare and usually only offered if patients have significant abnormalities in their bones or muscles. Treatments include joint fusion, reshaping the bones in the foot, and occasionally moving around tendons in the foot to help balance out the stresses (called tendon transfer).

Prevention

It?s time to take a long hard look at what?s in your closet. Now is the time to toss out shoes that are well worn. You also need to say good-bye to thin-soled shoes that offer zero arch support. If you?re overweight, fallen arches may be a sign the universe is trying to tell you something. You need to lose weight, and odds are, fallen arches are but one of many physical discomforts you are experiencing.
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