Arch Pain Causes Symptoms And Treatments

Overview

Pain or strain in your foot arches is a common sports injury and often linked to inflammation of the plantar fascia, the shock absorption ligament along the bottom of each foot. The pain can also highlight underlying issues to do with the structure of your arches.

Pain In Arch

Causes

The plantar fascia is a thick, fibrous band which runs along the sole of the feet. It helps to support the foot arches and transmits forces through the foot as you move. Plantar fasciitis is one of the most common causes of foot arch pain. The most common problem to develop here is plantar fasciitis. If there is too much strain on the plantar fascia (e.g. from long periods on your feet, suddenly increasing activity levels or your foot position is altered), the plantar fascia becomes inflamed and swollen. It is often accompanied by a bone spur, excess growth of the bone which develops due to repeated tension on the area where the plantar fascia attaches to the bone. Plantar fasciitis is one of the most common causes of foot arch pain. It is usually painful after activity or prolonged rest e.g. first thing in the morning. A less common problem with the plantar fascia which casues foot arch pain is plantar fibromatosis. This is when a small nodular growth develops on the plantar fascia, usually in the middle of the foot arch. It often causes pain when walking due to pressure through the lump.

Symptoms

Symptoms include pain which is often described as a burning pain radiating into the arch of the foot, heel and sometimes the toes. Pins and needles or numbness may be felt in the sole of the foot. Pain may be worse when running or when standing for long periods of time and often worse at night. The area under the medial malleolus on the inside of the ankle may be tender to touch.

Diagnosis

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

There is considerable debate about the best treatment option for plantar fasciitis. Some authors suggest all of the 'mainstream' methods of treatment don't actually help at all and can actually make the symptoms worse! However, on the whole, there are several of the most commonly cited treatment options for plantar fasciitis and these are generally accepted throughout the medical community. I would recommend giving these options a try if you haven't already. Rest. This is mainly applicable to the sports people as rest is possible treatment. (For those who cannot rest e.g. people who work on their feet - skip to the other treatment options below). Rest until it is not painful. This is made more difficult as people need to use their feet to perform daily activities but certainly stop sporting activities that are likely to be putting the fascia under excessive stress. Perform Self Micro-Massage (you can watch this video by clicking the link or scrolling further down the page as it's embedded on this lens!) This massage technique is used to break down fibrous tissue and also to stimulate blood flow to the area, both of which encourage healing and reduce pain. There is also a potentially soothing effect on nerve endings which will contribute to pain relief. Ice Therapy. Particularly useful after spending periods on your feet to reduce the inflammation. Wrap some ice or a bag of frozen peas in a towel and hold against the foot for up to 10 minutes. Repeat until symptoms have resolved. Heat Therapy. Heat therapy can be used (not after activity) to improve blood flow to the area to encourage healing. A heat pack of hot water bottle can be used. 10 minutes is ideal. Careful not to burn yourself! A good taping technique. By taping the foot in a certain way you can limit the movement in the foot and prevent the fascia from over-stretching and gives it a chance to rest and heal. Click on the link for more information on taping techniques. Weight Management. If you are over-weight, any weight you can loose will help to ease the burden on your sore feet and plantar fascia. Orthotic devices (often mis-spelled orthodic) are special insoles that can be used to limit over-pronation (discussed earlier) and control foot function. By preventing the arches flattening excessively, the plantar fascia is not over-stretched to the same extent and this should help with the symptoms and encourage healing. Stretching the calf muscles (again, click this link or scroll to the bottom of the page to watch the embedded video) can help to lengthen these muscles and the Achilles tendon - a risk factor for plantar fasciitis. Stretching of the plantar fascia itself is also encouraged, particularly before getting up the morning (night splints can be used for this effect) and after periods of rest. This can be achieved by placing a towel or band under the ball of the foot and gently pulling upwards until a stretch is felt. Hold for about 15-20 seconds then rest briefly. Repeat 2-3 times. As you can see there are many different treatment options available. Try incorporating some of these in to your daily routine and see what works for you. Regardless of the method the main aim is to prevent the fascia from over-stretching! Medical professionals such as a Podiatrist may decide to make custom orthotics or try ultra-sound therapy. It is likely that anti-inflammatory medications will also be recommended. If you have tried the treatment options and your symptoms persist I'd recommend going to see a medical professional for further advice.

Arch Pain

Surgical Treatment

In cases where cast immobilization, orthoses and shoe therapy have failed, surgery is the next alternative. The goal of surgery and non-surgical treatment is to eliminate pain, stop progression of the deformity and improve mobility of the patient. Opinions vary as to the best surgical treatment for adult acquired flatfoot. Procedures commonly used to correct the condition include tendon debridement, tendon transfers, osteotomies (cutting and repositioning of bone) and joint fusions.

Prevention

Early in the treatment of arch pain, consideration needs to be given to the cause and strategies put in place to prevent it happening again. Advice should be sought on the adequacy of footwear. Stretching exercises should be continued long after the symptoms are gone. Foot orthoses should be used if structural imbalances are present. Activity levels and types of activities (occupational and sporting) need to be considered and modified accordingly.

Stretching Exercises

Plantar Fasciitis stretches should always be gentle and pain free, if discomfort occurs with or after stretching decrease the intensity and duration of stretches. Stretches can usually be gradually progressed in intensity and duration over time according to individual tolerance. Plantar Fasciitis Stretch 1. Stretch for the right calf muscle (gastrocnemius) and the arch of the right foot (plantar fascia and muscles under the arches). Take your right heel close to the wall and ball of the foot upright against the wall. Move your hips forwards to the wall. Try to keep your right leg straight. Push down through your right heel to increase the stretch. Maintain for 30 seconds, repeat 2-3 times. Plantar Fasciitis Stretch 2. Stretch for the outside belly of the right calf muscle and the arch of the right foot. Take your right heel close to the wall. Turn the ball of your right foot outwards to 2 o?clock position upright against the wall. Move your hips forwards to the wall. Turn your trunk in the opposite direction (i.e. to the left). Try to keep your right leg straight. Push down through your right heel to increase the stretch. Maintain for 30 seconds, repeat 2-3 times. Plantar Fasciitis Stretch 3. Stretch for the inside belly of the right calf muscle and the arch of the right foot. Take your right heel close to the wall. Turn the ball of your right foot inwards to 10 o?clock position upright against the wall. Move your hips forwards to the wall. Turn your trunk in the opposite direction (i.e. to the right). Try to keep your right leg straight. Push down through your right heel to increase the stretch. Maintain for 30 seconds, repeat 2-3 times. Plantar Fasciitis Stretch 4. Stretch for the right achilles tendon and the arch of the right foot. Take your right heel close to the wall and ball of the foot upright against the wall (as for stretch 1). Move your hips forwards to the wall. Bend your right knee forwards into the wall keeping the ball of your foot upright against the wall. Push down through your right heel to increase the stretch. Maintain for 30 seconds, repeat 2-3 times.

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