Our feet are incredibly well specialized structures. There are 26 different bones in each foot, held together by 33 joints and more than 100 muscles, tendons and ligaments (in each foot). They way they weave and align together determine the formation of our arches. The aim of the arches is to give us spring and distribute our body weight across our feet and legs. The structures of the arches of our feet determine how we walk - they are rigid levels which allow us to move smoothly. However, the arches need to be sturdy as well as flexible to adapt to various surfaces and stresses. During childhood it is normal to have flat feet. This is because our feet form during our childhood. In other words, having what appears to be flat feet during early childhood does not necessarily mean that it will persist throughout the individual's life. People with very low arches or what appear to be no arches at all may experience no problems.
You can have a tendency towards fallen arches from birth. Up through the toddler stage, it is common to have flat feet. Throughout childhood, arches tend to normally develop. For reasons not well understood, however, in some cases the feet stay flat and the arch never forms. In many cases this abnormality does not cause symptoms or require any treatment. In other cases, it is due to a condition called tarsal coalition. This occurs when some of the foot bones fuse.
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.
You can always give yourself the ?wet test? described above to see whether you have flat feet. Most people who do not notice their flat feet or have no pain associated with them do not think to see a foot doctor. Flat feet can lead to additional problems such as stiffness or pain, however, especially if the condition appears out of nowhere. If you think you may have flat feet, you should seek medical attention to ensure there are no additional issues to worry about. Your doctor will be able to diagnose you with a number of tests. For example, he or she may have you walk around, stand still, or stand on your tiptoes while you are being examined. Your doctor may also examine your foot?s shape and functionality. It?s important to let your foot doctor know about your medical and family history. In some cases, your doctor may order imaging tests such as x-rays or an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) to determine a cause of your flat foot. If tarsal coalition is suspected in children, a CT scan is often ordered.
Non Surgical Treatment
Normally, flat feet disappear by age six as the feet become less flexible and the arches develop. Only about 1 or 2 out of every 10 children will continue to have flat feet into adulthood. For children who do not develop an arch, treatment is not recommended unless the foot is stiff or painful. Shoe inserts won?t help your child develop an arch, and may cause more problems than the flat feet themselves. However, certain forms of flat feet may need to be treated differently. For instance, a child may have tightness of the heel cord (Achilles tendon) that limits the motion of his foot. This tightness can result in a flat foot, but it usually can be treated with special stretching exercises to lengthen the heel cord. Rarely, a child will have truly rigid flat feet, a condition that can cause problems.
Surgical correction is dependent on the severity of symptoms and the stage of deformity. The goals of surgery are to create a more functional and stable foot. There are multiple procedures available to the surgeon and it may take several to correct a flatfoot deformity. Stage one deformities usually respond to conservative or non-surgical therapy such as anti-inflammatory medication, casting, functional orthotics or a foot ankle orthosis called a Richie Brace. If these modalities are unsuccessful surgery is warranted. Usually surgical treatment begins with removal of inflammatory tissue and repair of the posterior tibial tendon. A tendon transfer is performed if the posterior tibial muscle is weak or the tendon is badly damaged. The most commonly used tendon is the flexor digitorum longus tendon. This tendon flexes or moves the lesser toes downward. The flexor digitorum longus tendon is utilized due to its close proximity to the posterior tibial tendon and because there are minimal side effects with its loss. The remainder of the tendon is sutured to the flexor hallucis longus tendon that flexes the big toe so that little function is loss. Stage two deformities are less responsive to conservative therapies that can be effective in mild deformities. Bone procedures are necessary at this stage in order to recreate the arch and stabilize the foot. These procedures include isolated fusion procedures, bone grafts, and/or the repositioning of bones through cuts called osteotomies. The realigned bones are generally held in place with screws, pins, plates, or staples while the bone heals. A tendon transfer may or may not be utilized depending on the condition of the posterior tibial tendon. Stage three deformities are better treated with surgical correction, in healthy patients. Patients that are unable to tolerate surgery or the prolonged healing period are better served with either arch supports known as orthotics or bracing such as the Richie Brace. Surgical correction at this stage usually requires fusion procedures such as a triple or double arthrodesis. This involves fusing the two or three major bones in the back of the foot together with screws or pins. The most common joints fused together are the subtalar joint, talonavicular joint, and the calcaneocuboid joint. By fusing the bones together the surgeon is able to correct structural deformity and alleviate arthritic pain. Tendon transfer procedures are usually not beneficial at this stage. Stage four deformities are treated similarly but with the addition of fusing the ankle joint.
Well-fitted shoes with good arch support may help prevent flat feet. Maintaining a healthy weight may also lower wear and tear on the arches.
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.