A variety of foot problems can lead to adult acquired flatfoot deformity (AAFD), a condition that results in a fallen arch with the foot pointed outward. Most people - no matter what the cause of their flatfoot - can be helped with orthotics and braces. In patients who have tried orthotics and braces without any relief, surgery can be a very effective way to help with the pain and deformity. This article provides a brief overview of the problems that can result in AAFD. Further details regarding the most common conditions that cause an acquired flatfoot and their treatment options are provided in separate articles. Links to those articles are provided.
As children grow, their legs will experience developmental changes that can result in excess flattening of the arches with weight bearing. One example is genu valgum, or knock-knees, a usually normal, temporary condition in children at different stages of growth. A tight calf muscle or Achilles tendon can also contribute to a flat foot. Many children will experience tight calf muscles as they go through growth spurts. Conditions that are present at birth and are often diagnosed early include: metatarsus adductus, calcaneovalgus and congenital vertical talus. Tarsal coalitions are congenitally fused foot bones that cause a rigid flat foot often associated with painful muscle spasms. This type of flat foot is usually diagnosed later in childhood or in adulthood. Any condition that causes loose ligaments can result in a flat foot or lower-than-normal arch. Ligaments are bands of tissue that connect bones to each other and have an important role in giving form to foot arches. An example of a condition that causes loosening of ligaments is pregnancy, where normal hormonal changes relax the ligaments. Diseases that cause loose ligaments include Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, Marfan's syndrome and rheumatoid arthritis. If one leg is longer than the other, one foot may be flat in relation to the other to compensate. Usually the foot on the longer limb will have a flatter arch in an effort to shorten that limb, balancing-out the unevenness. Leg length inequality can be caused by spinal abnormalities such as scoliosis. It can also be due to an actual difference in length of one leg bone compared to the other.
Feet tire easily and become painful and achy, especially around the arch, ankle and heel. Swelling on the inside bottom of your feet. Back and leg pain. Difficulty standing on toes.
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical and foot exam will be done. Flat feet can be diagnosed by appearance. To determine if the foot is rigid, you may be asked to do some simple tasks.
Non Surgical Treatment
If the flat foot is rigid and causing problems, you will be referred to a foot specialist. Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Options include the following. Physical Therapy and Exercises. Physical therapy may relieve discomfort. You may be given a specific stretching and strength program. You may also have treatment to help manage the discomfort. Exercises can help with the strength of the surrounding muscles. It may relieve some of the pressure in the foot. Orthotics are shoe inserts that support the foot. These inserts may help to reduce pain and disability in some people. In mild cases, a well-fitting pair of shoes with arch support may be all that is needed. Flat feet caused by nerve or muscle disease may need special braces. Fallen arches are usually treated using stretching exercises, physical therapy and medication (to reduce inflammation). In extreme cases however, surgery is recommended.
Rarely does the physician use surgery to correct a foot that is congenitally flat, which typically does not cause pain. If the patient has a fallen arch that is painful, though, the foot and ankle physicians at Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush may perform surgery to reconstruct the tendon and "lift up" the fallen arch. This requires a combination of tendon re-routing procedures, ligament repairs, and bone cutting or fusion procedures.
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.