Posted on: 13 November 2015Share
Flat feet may sounds like a minor, easily ignored condition to many of us, but those of us unfortunate enough to suffer from fallen arches know just how debilitating this innocuous sounding condition can become. Without the support of a properly formed arch, a flat foot can become swollen and painful as overworked tendons become damaged, a problem exacerbated by sports, exercise or even a gentle stroll.
However, there are many treatments available that not only relieve the discomfort of flat feet, but help correct the shape and mechanisms of the fallen arch or arches, with the end goal of reshaping the foot back into a healthy curve. Your podiatrist will discuss the various treatments available with you in detail - what you will be offered depends largely on the nature and severity of your flat feet:
If your flat feet are causing pain and discomfort, but are not considered seriously damaged enough to warrant corrective surgery or other invasive treatments, your podiatrist will generally offer the following treatment options:
- R&R - In many minor cases, resting the affect foot or feet is the easiest and most effective treatment. Intermittent swelling and/or pain (for instance, after a long walk) will ease off fairly quickly if the tendons are allowed to relax - you can supplement treatment with ice packs to reduce swelling more quickly and partially numb pain.
- Analgesics - Painkillers are temporarily prescribed in many cases, and usually take the form of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen, to reduce inflammation alongside alleviating pain.
- Physiotherapy - If pain caused by fallen arches is a minor but chronic problem, limited physiotherapy can help. Exercises designed to stretch and strengthen the over-exerted tendons in the arch of the foot can help to reduce symptoms, and can be performed at home or under the supervision of a qualified physiotherapist. Deep tissue massage to accompany the therapy can help relieve strain on tired lower leg muscles.
- Orthotic insoles - Special orthotic insoles can be worn inside your shoes, to slowly reshape your feet as you walk. These devices are a good long-term treatment, but can be painful or uncomfortable to use at first. You should also make sure to use insoles that have been customised to fit your feet - generic insoles some in standardised sizes and shapes and can do more harm than good in some cases.
In the event of a totally collapsed arch, where the whole of the sole of the foot is touching the ground, more serious corrective procedures may be necessary:
- Corticosteroids - in cases of severe pain and inflammation (for instance when an arch tendon has become partially torn) a direct injection of corticosteroids into the affected foot can provide quick and effective relief. However, corticosteroid use should be kept to a minimum, as long term use can lead to some nasty side effects.
- Other orthotic devices - If simple insoles aren't cutting it, larger braces or casts that support the ankle and calf as well as the foot may be more effective. These larger orthotic devices can be more cumbersome and uncomfortable to wear, but the extra support can assist your lower leg muscles in adjusting to your changing foot shape, speeding the corrective process.
- Surgery - Surgery to correct a fallen arch is generally considered a last resort, but can be necessary in extremely debilitating cases. The type of surgery performed will depend largely on the patient's individual needs - sometimes extra bone is grafted into the fallen arch to increase strength, while other patients may require superfluous bone or scar tissue to be removed. These surgeries are generally performed under local anaesthetic, but can have prolonged recovery periods - consult your podiatrist on whether they think the risks of surgery outweigh potential benefits.
For more information about general foot care, ask a podiatrist.