Pain across the bottom of the foot at any point between the heel and the ball of the foot is often referred to as "arch pain." Although this description is non-specific, most arch pain is due to strain or inflammation of the plantar fascia (a long ligament on the bottom of the foot). This condition is known as plantar fasciitis and is sometimes associated with a heel spur. In most cases, arch pain develops from overuse, unsupportive shoes, weight gain, or acute injury. If arch pain persists beyond a few days, see a foot and ankle surgeon for treatment to prevent this condition from becoming worse.
There are several reasons why arch pain develops. Sometimes it?s due to a condition known as plantar fasciitis, in which the plantar fascia (the band of tissue that runs along the bottom of your foot from your heel to your toes) becomes inflamed after excessive stress. Heel pain results from this inflammation. Sometimes the pain is due to extensive time spent on your feet. Many people feel pain on the arch of their feet after a long workday, while others overuse their feet exercising or playing sports. A foot deformity, such as hammertoe or clubfoot, can also cause this pain. Medical conditions such as diabetes or obesity can put additional stress on your feet, thereby causing arch pain. Your footwear is also important. Shoes should support all parts of your foot, especially the bottom. This is very important if you spend excessive time on your feet, if your obese, if your pregnant, or if you engage in sport-related activities. Injuries to any of the twenty-six bones, thirty-three joints and over 100 muscles, tendons and ligaments in the feet can also cause arch pain. Because the foot is such a complex structure, it?s important to see a podiatrist at the first sign of symptoms.
Pain and tenderness associated with plantar fascia strains are usually felt on the bottom of the foot and may manifest either as a specific or general area of tenderness. Plantar fascia pain may be increased or decreased by stretching of the arch. Generally, in mild cases of plantar fasciitis, the pain will decrease as the soft tissues of the foot "warm up"; however, pain may increase as use of the foot increases. In more severe cases of plantar fasciitis, pain may increase when the arch is stressed. A more specific pain (point tenderness) is an indicator that something is wrong in that specific area. Pain with movement of the affected area is also an indicator of the particular body part affected.
In people with flat feet, the instep of the foot comes in contact with the ground when standing. To diagnose the problem, the health care provider will ask you to stand on your toes. If an arch forms,the flat foot is called flexible. You will not need any more tests or treatment. If the arch does not form with toe-standing (called rigid flat feet), or if there is pain, other tests may be needed, including a CT scan to look at the bones in the foot. MRI scan to look at the tendons in the foot. X-ray of the foot.
Non Surgical Treatment
Use corrective prophylactic measures. Purchase new shoes or replace the insoles of your current shoes. Athletic shoes lose the elastic properties of the soles through usage and age. A good rule of thumb is to replace your shoes every six months, more often if there is heavier usage. The use of after-market insoles can increase energy absorption and add support to the foot. Custom fabricated orthotics or off-the-shelf orthotics may also improve the biomechanics of the foot. Focus on muscle strengthening and flexibility. You may be given exercises to increase the strength and stability of the affected area and to correct muscles that may not be balanced. Exercises to increase flexibility will maintain or improve the length of a muscle. Flexibility helps to make a stronger muscle that is less likely to be injured.
Cavus foot is caused in part by an over-pull of one of the lateral ankle muscles. A release of this tendon can be performed on the outside of the ankle. Additionally, a transfer of this tendon can be performed to help in correcting deformity of the ankle joint. Often patients will have a tightness of their gastrocnemius muscle, one of the main muscles in the calf. This can increase the deformity or prevent a correction from working. It is addressed with a lengthening of a part of the calf muscle or Achilles tendon. This is often performed through one or more small cuts in the back of the leg or ankle. Finally, the plantar fascia may be tight. The plantar fascia is a cord-like structure that runs from the heel to the front part of the foot. Partial or complete plantar fascia release may be done.
Arch pain occurs when the plantar fascia becomes worn down due to constant strain or excessive exercising. This may be caused by increasing your running or hiking mileage too fast, wearing inadequate footwear, lack of stretching, running on steep hills, standing on your feet for too long and abnormal anatomy such as flat foot. Stretching is an important exercise that should not be overlooked because the tightness or lack of tightness of the joints in the foot can also cause pain in the arch.
Flexibility is important in preventing injuries. With a simple stretching exercise, you can rehabilitate the muscles of your foot to relieve arch pain and prevent future injuries. This simple exercise by Tammy White and Phyllis Clapis for Relay Health is a good way to strengthen your foot muscles and stretch your plantar fascia. Sit in a chair and cross one foot over your other knee. Grab the base of your toes and pull them back toward your leg until you feel a comfortable stretch. Hold 15 seconds and repeat three times. When you can stand comfortably on your injured foot, you can begin standing to stretch the plantar fascia at the bottom of your foot.