Arch pain is felt on the underside of your foot between the heel and ball. The purpose of the arch is to transfer your body weight from heel to toe, and pain is the result when the arch doesn?t function properly. Your foot actually contains two arches: the longitudinal arch which runs the length of your foot, and the transverse arch (also known as the metatarsal arch) which spans the width of your foot. There are 24 bones which create the arches and these bones are held together through their unique interlocking shapes and ligaments. The muscles and the plantar fascia (a broad band of fibrous tissue which runs from the heel to the toes) provide secondary support, and fat pads help to absorb impact and bear your weight. If any of these structures or their interaction are damaged or faulty, arch pain may occur. The most common cause of arch pain is plantar fasciitis, an inflammation of the plantar fascia. You may also suffer arch pain if you have a structural imbalance in your foot or suffer from arthritis. But arch pain may also result from stepping on a rock or when someone steps on your foot. This force may cause an injury such as a bone fracture or damage to the supporting muscles, ligaments, or tendons underneath your foot.
The arches are the primary structures of the body that absorb and return force to and from the body to the outside world when we are on our feet. When something happens to these structures, pain and injury may result. There can be many causes of arch pain. Direct force trauma, ligament sprains, muscle strains, poor biomechanical alignment,stress fractures, overuse, inflammatory arthritis or the tightness or lack of tightness of the joints in the foot may all cause pain in the arch. Injury to the plantar fascia is a common cause of arch pain. The plantar fascia is the thick, connective tissue which supports the arch on the bottom of the foot. It runs from the calcaneus (heel) forwards to the heads of the metatarsals. When the plantar fascia is damaged, the resulting inflammatory response may become a source of arch pain.
Typically, the sufferer of plantar fasciitis experiences pain upon rising after sleep, particularly the first step out of bed. Such pain is tightly localized at the bony landmark on the anterior medial tubercle of the calcaneus. In some cases, pain may prevent the athlete from walking in a normal heel-toe gait, causing an irregular walk as means of compensation. Less common areas of pain include the forefoot, Achilles tendon, or subtalar joint. After a brief period of walking, the pain usually subsides, but returns again either with vigorous activity or prolonged standing or walking. On the field, an altered gait or abnormal stride pattern, along with pain during running or jumping activities are tell-tale signs of plantar fasciitis and should be given prompt attention. Further indications of the injury include poor dorsiflexion (lifting the forefoot off the ground) due to a shortened gastroc complex, (muscles of the calf). Crouching in a full squat position with the sole of the foot flat on the ground can be used as a test, as pain will preclude it for the athlete suffering from plantar fasciitis, causing an elevation of the heel due to tension in the gastroc complex.
The doctor will take a brief history to determine how the injury occurred. If necessary, a thorough physical exam may be conducted to evaluate for any other injuries. Taking your workout shoes to the exam may also provide valuable information to the medical practitioner. Both feet will be physically and visually examined by the medical practitioner. The foot and arch will be touched and manipulated possibly with a lot of pressure and inspected to identify obvious deformities, tender spots, or any differences in the bones of the foot and arch.
Non Surgical Treatment
Initial treatment of the tear will focus on symptom relief. This may involve the use of anti-inflammatory medications, strapping of the toe, off-loading padding, altered footwear and activity modification. Following this treatment will focus on the underlying causes of the problem, such as flat feet, bunions and hammer toes. Your podiatrist will perform a thorough biomechanical assessment to determine the best course of action to offload the forefoot and decrease the mechanical stress on the area. This injury usually occurs gradually and is best treated in the early stages. Often a customised soft full length orthotic and footwear modifications can prevent the problem from progressing. Occasionally surgery needs to be performed, either frank repair of the plantar plate or in chronic cases a resection osteotomy may be suggested.
Surgery for flat feet is separated into three kinds: soft tissue procedures, bone cuts, and bone fusions. Depending on the severity of the flat foot, a person?s age, and whether or not the foot is stiff determines just how the foot can be fixed. In most cases a combination of procedures are performed. With flexible flat feet, surgery is geared at maintaining the motion of the foot and recreating the arch. Commonly this may involve tendon repairs along the inside of the foot to reinforce the main tendon that lifts the arch. When the bone collapse is significant, bone procedures are included to physically rebuild the arch, and realign the heel. The presence of bunions with flat feet is often contributing to the collapse and in most situations requires correction. With rigid flat feet, surgery is focused on restoring the shape of the foot through procedures that eliminate motion. In this case, motion does not exist pre-operatively, so realigning the foot is of utmost importance. The exception, are rigid flat feet due to tarsal coalition (fused segment of bone) in the back of the foot where freeing the blockage can restore function.
Achilles stretch. Stand with the ball of one foot on a stair. Reach for the step below with your heel until you feel a stretch in the arch of your foot. Hold this position for 15 to 30 seconds and then relax. Repeat 3 times. Balance and reach exercises. Stand next to a chair with your injured leg farther from the chair. The chair will provide support if you need it. Stand on the foot of your injured leg and bend your knee slightly. Try to raise the arch of this foot while keeping your big toe on the floor. Keep your foot in this position. With the hand that is farther away from the chair, reach forward in front of you by bending at the waist. Avoid bending your knee any more as you do this. Repeat this 15 times. To make the exercise more challenging, reach farther in front of you. Do 2 sets of 15. While keeping your arch raised, reach the hand that is farther away from the chair across your body toward the chair. The farther you reach, the more challenging the exercise. Do 2 sets of 15. Towel pickup. With your heel on the ground, pick up a towel with your toes. Release. Repeat 10 to 20 times. When this gets easy, add more resistance by placing a book or small weight on the towel. Resisted ankle plantar flexion. Sit with your injured leg stretched out in front of you. Loop the tubing around the ball of your foot. Hold the ends of the tubing with both hands. Gently press the ball of your foot down and point your toes, stretching the tubing. Return to the starting position. Do 2 sets of 15. Resisted ankle dorsiflexion. Tie a knot in one end of the elastic tubing and shut the knot in a door. Tie a loop in the other end of the tubing and put the foot on your injured side through the loop so that the tubing goes around the top of the foot. Sit facing the door with your injured leg straight out in front of you. Move away from the door until there is tension in the tubing. Keeping your leg straight, pull the top of your foot toward your body, stretching the tubing. Slowly return to the starting position. Do 2 sets of 15. Heel raise. Stand behind a chair or counter with both feet flat on the floor. Using the chair or counter as a support, rise up onto your toes and hold for 5 seconds. Then slowly lower yourself down without holding onto the support. (It’s OK to keep holding onto the support if you need to.) When this exercise becomes less painful, try doing this exercise while you are standing on the injured leg only. Repeat 15 times. Do 2 sets of 15. Rest 30 seconds between sets.