Star Lazusky
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Heel And Arch Pain
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. Arch pain or arch strain, refers to an inflammation and/or burning sensation at the arch of the foot. It is caused by an inflammation which can be brought about by excessive stretching of the plantar fascia, usually due to over-pronation. Left untreated, strain on the longitudinal arch continues and spurs may develop.


Arch Pain


Causes


Also known as pes planus, this is when the arch of the foot collapses completely dropping the whole sole of the foot down to the ground. Flat feet are a common cause of foot arch pain. Babies are born with flat feet and as they grow, the foot arches should gradually form, but in approximately 30% of the population, they never do. They can also develop later in life, due to illness, pregnancy, injury, excessive stress on the feet or as part of the aging process. Many people who have flat feet don?t complain of any accompanying symptoms, but some develop foot arch pain, or problems further up the leg such as knee pain or back pain. They may find their feet tire quickly when they are standing or walking, and that it is difficult to rise up onto their tiptoes. Someone who is experiencing pain on the bottom of the foot or elsewhere due to their flat feet can benefit from exercises and orthotics (specially designed insoles to correct the foot position) as well as walking barefoot rather than in shoes. A quick test to see if you have flat feet is to put your foot in a tray of water and then place it on a smooth level surface e.g. thick paper. Have a look at your footprint, the more of the sole of the foot that you can see, the flatter your foot.


Symptoms


Flat feet can exhibit a variety of symptoms, from mild to severe. The extent of the flat foto does not always correlate with the extent of symptoms. Patients may complain of arch pain and heel pain. Commonly there is pain on the outside of the foot, where the foot meets the ankle as the collapse foot abuts against the ankle. Muscle cramps within the foot, and onto the leg (shin splints) may occur. In general, patients have pain with activity, such as walking or running. The pain may be deep and focal to a generalized widespread achy feeling. Irritation from shoe gear can cause redness and swelling. Common reasons patients seek treatment are pain, interference with walking or activities, difficulty fitting shoes, swelling, and notice a change in appearance of the foot and/or unsightly appearance.


Diagnosis


A professional therapist may use tinels test to diagnose tarsal tunnel syndrome. This involves tapping the nerve just behind the medial malleolus or bony bit of the ankle with a rubber hammer. Pain indicates a positive test. Sometimes it is initially mistaken for plantar fasciitis which also causes pain from the inside heel and throughout the arch of the foot. Neural symptoms (such as tingling or numbness) as well as the location of tenderness when touching the area should help to easily distinguish between the conditions.


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/Cold 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.


Foot 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


It is possible to prevent arch pain by wearing well-fitting shoes while performing any physical activity. Many times doctors will suggest a therapeutic shoe with a higher heel to relieve the pressure on the achilles tendon and also the arch muscle (plantar fasciitis). People with arch pain suffer from regular flare-ups of pain. However there is no risk to others as this is not a contagious condition.


Stretching Exercises


Calf Raises. Strengthens the tendons in your heels and calf muscles, which support your arch. Raise up on the balls of your feet as high as possible. Slowly lower down. Do three sets of 10 reps. Progress to doing the raises on stairs (with heels hanging off), and then to single-leg raises. Step Stretch. Improves flexibility in your Achilles tendon and calf-when these areas become tight, the arch gets painfully overloaded. Stand at the edge of a step, toes on step, heels hanging off. Lower your heels down, past the step, then raise back up to the start position. Do three sets of 10 reps. Doming. Works the arch muscles and the tibialis posterior (in the calf and foot) to control excess pronation. While standing, press your toes downward into the ground while keeping the heel planted, so that your foot forms an arch (or dome). Release, and do three sets of 10 reps on each foot. Toe Spread and Squeeze. Targets the interossei muscles of the foot, which support the arch. While sitting, loop a small resistance band around your toes. Spread toes; release. Then place a toe separator (used at nail salons) in between toes. Squeeze toes in; release. Do three sets of 10 reps of each exercise on both feet. Towel Curls. Works the toe-flexor muscles that run along your arch to increase overall foot strength. Lay a small hand towel on the floor, and place one foot on the towel. Using just your toes, scrunch the towel toward you, hold, then slowly push the towel away from you back to start position. Do three sets of 10 reps on each foot.
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