Flat feet symptoms, causes and cure
We tend to ignore certain areas of our body’s anatomy unless they are causing us discomfort. One such area that we take for granted is the sole of our foot. However, like every other part of our body, our feet can also suffer from abnormalities or ailments such as flat feet. Flat feet symptoms are highly common in people across all age groups. More than 30% of the world’s population have a flat foot condition. Despite the commonness of this problem, few people know what is flat feet.
In this article, Dr Anuj Chawla, a leading foot & ankle specialist in Gurgaon, will discuss everything we need to know about flat feet symptoms.
Flat feet problems, however, are not easier to overlook for those suffering from it. Before we address what these problems are and how to treat them, let us understand what is flat feet.
What are flat feet symptoms?
You must have noticed that usually, people have a gap beneath their feet. This gap helps in equal distribution of weight when a person stands up. Flat feet, also known as fallen arches or pes planus, is a condition in which this gap is not present.
Having flat feet means that the arches beneath your feet are flattened. It means that people either have a very low arch or no arch at all. Flat feet symptoms are most visible when a person stands up with the entire soles of the feet touching the ground.
Flat feet is, majorly, a painless condition and so most people don’t display any symptoms. However, in some cases, people living with this condition may experience discomfort and pain.
Some common flat feet symptoms include:
- Pain and swelling in the foot & ankle
- Pain in the calves and knees
- Pain that extends to the lower back
What causes flat feet in adults?
There are two answers to the question – what causes flat feet? Flat feet problems can be congenital (by birth) or acquired (the result of age or injury).
Congenital flat feet: Flat feet problems are highly common in infants and toddlers. It is because foot arches do not develop completely during early childhood. Over time, these arches take shape in most people, however, when absent, they result in congenital flat feet.
Flat feet in children can occur as a result of genetics or underlying health conditions such as cerebral palsy. Most children develop flexible flatfoot (the arch is visible when the person is sitting but it disappears on standing). Some children take longer than others to outgrow flat feet while some never do.
Acquired flat feet: As the name denotes, acquired flat feet is a condition in which a person acquires this condition with age. The arch of our feet is primarily supported by the posterior tibial tendon. As we grow old, this tendon can be exposed to inflammation and tear due to excessive and prolonged use. The extended overuse can result in damage to the arch leading to flat feet in adults.
Flat feet in adults may also be caused by:
- Foot and ankle injury
- Nervous system or muscle diseases such as cerebral palsy, spina bifida
How are flat feet diagnosed?
The diagnosis of pas planus deformity is rather simple. Here are the common ways to diagnose this ailment.
- Manual examination: During the preliminary investigations, your healthcare provider manually checks your feet from the front and back. He/she may ask you to stand straight on your feet and then stand on your toes to carefully observe the structure of your feet.
- X-rays: One of the primary tests ordered to diagnose is an X-ray scan of your feet. Your doctor examines the X-ray image to rule out the possibility of bone deformities.
- Ultrasound & CT scan: Your doctor may indicate that you take imaging tests such as ultrasound and CT scans to produce detailed images of your feet. He/she will check for tendon injuries more closely with the help of these screening tests.
If your healthcare provider may also order an MRI scan if he/she suspects the need for it.
What is flat feet treatment?
Flat feet are not always a distressing condition. Most people, especially children, do not experience any kind of pain or discomfort. However, you should seek flat feet treatment if you do experience any of the following:
- Recently developed flat feet
- Sudden and growing pain in feet, ankles or lower limbs
- Symptoms that do not get better over time
- Feet feeling rigid, stiff and heavy
There are several different flat feet treatment methods offered by healthcare providers. The answer for how to cure flat feet may depend on factors such as the cause of your condition and the extremity of your symptoms. Some treatment methods include:
- Flat feet exercises: Flat feet exercises are targeted at alleviating the pain and associated symptoms caused as a result of this condition. Your healthcare provider will help you perform stretching and strengthening exercises for improving strength and flexibility in the feet and ankles as a form of treatment. Some common exercises include heel cord stretching and golf ball roll.
- Shoes for flat feet: In rare cases, poorly-fitted shoes can lead to flat feet or adverse your symptoms. Your healthcare provider helps you in finding the right shoes for flat feet that offer arch support. If your symptoms are severe, your doctor may indicate you to get custom-made structurally supportive shoes for treatment.
- Arch support: Arch support is one of the several ways offered by doctors on how to cure flat feet. Arch supports are special orthopaedic medical devices that help to reduce flat feet symptoms.
- Physical therapy: Physiotherapy is an effective way to treat musculoskeletal conditions including flat feet. Physical therapy is suggested, especially, for people who actively engaged in sports or rigorous physical activities.
- Medication: Along with lifestyle changes, your healthcare provider may prescribe relevant medicines to help alleviate your pain and symptoms.
- Flat feet surgery: Flat feet surgery is often considered the last resort if you are experiencing extreme pain and discomfort due to your condition. Mostly, a surgery for flatfoot is indicated when you have an associated problem such as tendon tear, rupture or deformity with bones.
There are two types of surgeries for flat feet –
- Reconstructive surgery
- Surgery for metal implant
What are flat feet disadvantages?
Flat feet disadvantages or complications arise when you are experiencing distressing symptoms due to fallen arches but not seeking clinical intervention to correct them. Besides affecting the alignment of your body, an untreated and painful flatfoot can aggravate leg and ankle conditions for them.
Some common complications include:
- Achilles tendonitis
- Shin splints
- Posterior tibial tendonitis
- Arthritis in the ankles and feet
- Inflammation of ligaments in the soles of the feet
Lifestyle and home remedies
As discussed above, flatfoot problems don’t always need treatment. If you are experiencing mild symptoms, you can practice the following lifestyle and home remedies:
- Take as much rest as possible: Avoid engaging in extraneous physical activities as it aggravate the pain in your feet. Instead, rest your foot and apply ice to the painful areas.
- Maintain a healthy weight: If you have recently started experiencing pain and discomfort due to flatfoot, you are advised to lose extra weight to avoid complications.
- Replace old worn out shoes: Your old shoes can add to your distress. If you are starting to experience pain and discomfort in your feet, buy custom made shoes for arch support.
The concluding note
Flat feet is mostly asymptomatic condition however, flat feet symptoms can be easily detected by qualifed orthopaedic doctors.
You cannot prevent flat feet problems. However, you can alleviate the severity of symptoms by exercising the above steps and consulting a verified doctor.
Dr. Anuj Chawla is the only surgeon in Gurgaon who is accredited to perform Extra-Osseus Talo Tarsal Stabilization (EOTTS). Performed as day surgery, it can be done using a small incision and involves the insertion of a titanium stent in the sinus tarsi, the space between ankle bone (talus) and the heel bone (calcaneum).
It is a quick surgical procedure with minimal side effects and a rapid and significant recovery. It is one of the few procedures to rebuild the arch without doing any surgery for bone.
Ques: Is it bad to have flat feet?
Ans: No, flat feet is a highly common condition in, both, children and adults.
Ques: Why do people have flat feet?
Ans: There are several causes why people develop flat feet. Some common causes include genetics, injury, obesity, diabetes and more.
Ques: Can I fix my flat feet naturally?
Ans: You can reduce your symptoms by practicing home remedies and doing flat feet exercises.
Ques: Do you need surgery for flat feet?
Ans: Surgery is indicated when flat feet is caused by an associated problem such as tendon rupture, bone deformity and more.
Ques: How long does it take to fix flat feet?
Ans: Your recovery from flat feet depends upon its causes, severity of symptoms and type of treatment taken.