Sana Dorne

The Feet Problems Database

Do Fallen Arches Require Surgery?

Overview

Adult Acquired Flat Feet

The terms fallen arches and flat feet are used interchangeably to refer to a condition in which there is no arch of the foot. An arch is formed by tendons in the foot that stretch from the heel of the foot to the base of the toes, or metatarsals. There are also supporting tendons that originate in the lower leg. Together, these tendons work to form an arch, noticeable as a slight rise in the inner midsole of the foot. This rise or arch can be classified as a normal arch, a high arch, or a fallen arch. When tendons do not work together to pull properly, this results in a fallen arch or flat foot. Aside from the occasional pain associated with flat feet, problems with fallen arches can extend upwards to the ankles, knees, hips, and even the back, altering the biomechanics of the body.

Causes

As discussed above, many health conditions can create a painful flatfoot. Damage to the posterior tibial tendon is the most common cause of AAFD. The posterior tibial tendon is one of the most important tendons of the leg. It starts at a muscle in the calf, travels down the inside of the lower leg and attaches to the bones on the inside of the foot. The main function of this tendon is to hold up the arch and support your foot when you walk. If the tendon becomes inflamed or torn, the arch will slowly collapse. Women and people over 40 are more likely to develop problems with the posterior tibial tendon. Other risk factors include obesity, diabetes, and hypertension. Having flat feet since childhood increases the risk of developing a tear in the posterior tibial tendon. In addition, people who are involved in high impact sports, such as basketball, tennis, or soccer, may have tears of the tendon from repetitive use.

Symptoms

Many people have flat feet and notice no problems and require no treatment. But others may experience the following symptoms, Feet tire easily, painful or achy feet, especially in the areas of the arches and heels, the inside bottom of your feet become swollen, foot movement, such as standing on your toes, is difficult, back and leg pain, If you notice any of these symptoms, it's time for a trip to the doctor.

Diagnosis

Runners are often advised to get a gait analysis to determine what type of foot they have and so what kind of running shoe they require. This shouldn?t stop at runners. Anyone that plays sports could benefit from this assessment. Sports shoes such as football boots, astro trainers and squash trainers often have very poor arch support and so for the 60-80% of us who do overpronate or have flat feet they are left unsupported. A change of footwear or the insertion of arch support insoles or orthotics can make a massive difference to your risk of injury, to general aches and pains and even to your performance.

best arch support insoles for flat feet

Non Surgical Treatment

The treatment is simple for flat feet. We will carry out a biomechanical assessment and full history, often along side a Computerised Gait Scan to give us an idea of how the foot is compensating. Treatment will be to, control how the foot hits the ground, support the middle of the foot and prevent the arch collapsing, promote normal movement in the front of the foot. The ability to do this will be dictated by the movement within the foot to start with. Treatment for all the above problems are often combined with a physiotherapy session in order to help develop a stretching and strengthening program for the back of the legs and the pelvis in order to allow normal function when the orthoses have been prescribed. If you are born with flat feet you will not grow out of them - if you get orthoses, like glasses you will need them for the rest of your life if you want to correct the mechanics in your foot. In 95% of cases, orthoses will reduce symptoms by at least 85%. In the other 5% we will work with them to get them to this level.

Surgical Treatment

Flat Feet

Rarely does the physician use surgery to correct a foot that is congenitally flat, which typically does not cause pain. If the patient has a fallen arch that is painful, though, the foot and ankle physicians at Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush may perform surgery to reconstruct the tendon and "lift up" the fallen arch. This requires a combination of tendon re-routing procedures, ligament repairs, and bone cutting or fusion procedures.

After Care

Time off work depends on the type of work as well as the surgical procedures performed. . A patient will be required to be non-weight bearing in a cast or splint and use crutches for four to twelve weeks. Usually a patient can return to work in one to two weeks if they are able to work while seated. If a person's job requires standing and walking, return to work may take several weeks. Complete recovery may take six months to a full year. Complications can occur as with all surgeries, but are minimized by strictly following your surgeon's post-operative instructions. The main complications include infection, bone that is slow to heal or does not heal, progression or reoccurrence of deformity, a stiff foot, and the need for further surgery. Many of the above complications can be avoided by only putting weight on the operative foot when allowed by your surgeon.
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