The arch functions as a shock absorber for our entire body. Each time we step down, we place up to 5 times our body weight on the foot, depending on whether we are walking, running, or jumping. If there were no shock absorber in the foot, the force of each step would fracture or dislocate the bones of the foot, leg, and lower back. When pain occurs in the arch, it is telling us it is "sick" and cannot function properly. If left untreated, it can cause constant pain throughout the entire foot, and eventually the knee, hip, and lower back.
The cause of this condition is too much pressure exerted on the arches, and although common in athletes, the condition can happen because you went hiking or climbing, you were lifting heavy objects, or you simply walked too far too vigorously. Pregnancy places extra strain on the arches because of both the additional body weight and the effect of hormones on muscles and ligaments.
Plantar fasciitis is most often seen in middle-aged men and women, but can be found in all age groups. The condition is diagnosed with the classic symptoms of pain well focused deep in the heel area of the bottom of the foot. Often the pain from plantar fasciitis is most severe when you first stand on your feet in the morning. Pain often subsides quite quickly, but then returns after prolonged standing or walking. Plantar fasciitis is sometimes, but not always, associated with a rapid gain of weight. It is also sometimes seen in recreational athletes, especially runners. In these athletes, it is thought that the repetitive nature of the sports causes the damage to the fibrous tissue that forms the arch of the foot.
The adult acquired flatfoot, secondary to posterior tibial tendon dysfunction, is diagnosed in a number of ways with no single test proven to be totally reliable. The most accurate diagnosis is made by a skilled clinician utilizing observation and hands on evaluation of the foot and ankle. Observation of the foot in a walking examination is most reliable. The affected foot appears more pronated and deformed compared to the unaffected foot. Muscle testing will show a strength deficit. An easy test to perform in the office is the single foot raise.
Non Surgical Treatment
In addition to relieving the pain by providing better metatarsal support for your feet, many doctors advise stretching and strengthening the muscles that surround the damaged or weakened tendons. This advice can prove especially effective in preventing the possible side effects of fallen arches, including: inflammation and discomfort in the ligaments of the sole, Achilles tendonitis, shin splints, calluses, and bunions. Like plantar fasciitis, left untreated, fallen arches can cause a domino effect that impacts your legs, hips, and back.
Cavus foot is caused in part by an over-pull of one of the lateral ankle muscles. A release of this tendon can be performed on the outside of the ankle. Additionally, a transfer of this tendon can be performed to help in correcting deformity of the ankle joint. Often patients will have a tightness of their gastrocnemius muscle, one of the main muscles in the calf. This can increase the deformity or prevent a correction from working. It is addressed with a lengthening of a part of the calf muscle or Achilles tendon. This is often performed through one or more small cuts in the back of the leg or ankle. Finally, the plantar fascia may be tight. The plantar fascia is a cord-like structure that runs from the heel to the front part of the foot. Partial or complete plantar fascia release may be done.
Drink plenty of water before, during and after your workout. Dehydration is a common cause of muscle cramps, according to MayoClinic.com. If your workouts are long and strenuous, drink a carbohydrate-based electrolyte beverage too. Warm up the muscles of your feet before you work out. A simple exercise is to write the letters of the alphabet with your toes. Perform the warm up with bare feet and exaggerate the movements to challenge your muscles. Wear properly fitted shoes. Visit a sporting goods store and get your feet and arches measured. Ask for help selecting a pair of shoes to fit your workout. For instance, if you play soccer, you need cleats, not running shoes. Take a break. Cramps can be your body's way of telling you you're exercising too much, according to MayoClinic.com. Rest for a few days, then resume exercise and see if you can complete a workout without arch cramps. Stretch. At the end of your workout, perform a few stretching exercises to keep your muscles from tightening and cramping. Sit down, lean over and grasp your toes. Pull the toes toward your body until you feel tension in the arch of your foot. Hold the stretch for 20 to 30 seconds, then repeat on the opposite side. Another easy way to stretch your arch is to put a towel on the floor, curl your toes around it and pull it toward your body.
Calf Stretching in Bed. As you may already know, the first few steps out of bed in the morning can be the worst of the day. Those first few steps can be enough to reaggravate your condition putting you into a cycle of inflammation and pain. The best way to help break that cycle is to stretch your calf before taking those first steps in the morning. When the muscles in your calf are tight, they pull on the heel bone, making your plantar fascia very taut and prone to injury. To help loosen those muscles, take a towel or belt and loop it around the ball of your foot. Keeping your leg straight, gently pull towards your body until you feel a stretch in the lower part of your leg. Hold that for 30 seconds and repeat up to 5 times before taking your first step out of bed. Plantar Fascia Stretching. Loosening up the tissues that are irritated probably makes sense to you, but you may not know how to do so. Luckily, there?s a very simple way. All you have to do is pull your toes up with your hand until you feel a stretch along the ball of your foot. You may feel the stretch anywhere from the ball of your foot to your heel. Holding this position for 30 seconds a few times can make a world of difference in your pain levels. Calf Stretching. I know, it probably seems like overkill, but stretching out the muscles in the lower leg is an integral step to recovery. There are two main muscles in the lower leg that attach to the heel, so we?ll work on stretching them both out. Stand against a wall and slide one leg back, pushing the heel down towards the floor (first picture). When you feel a stretch in the lower part of your leg, hold it for 30 seconds. After those 30 seconds are up, bend your knees until a deeper stretch is felt a bit lower in the leg (second photo). Again, hold this stretch for 30 seconds and repeat this until you?ve done it 3 times on each leg. Who doesn?t love a good massage? I suppose you could pay for someone to rub out the tissues in the bottom of your foot, but if you?re looking for a cheaper alternative, look no further than the humble tennis ball. Placing a tennis ball on the ground and gently rolling it under foot for a few minutes can help loosen up your plantar fascia, making it much less likely to become irritated. Put enough pressure on the ball to get a deep massage. You may feel some soreness, but back off if you feel any pain.Tennis Ball Massage While using the tennis ball is great for keeping things loose, sometimes it?s worth doing some icing at the same time for some inflammation control. Freezing a water bottle and rolling it under your foot for 10 minutes at the end of the day can be a very effective way to keep inflammation in check while staying loose. It might not be the most comfortable thing in the world, but ?Brrr? is better than ?Ouch? any day. One thing to keep in mind is that while these tips have been proven to work, they?re not an instant fix. It can take a few weeks of consistency with them before your pain levels begin to change. If you?re not seeing any improvement after making an honest effort, it may be time to look into some different treatment methods with your doctor such as formal PT, orthotics, a weight-loss plan, or others.