This month I am going to discuss a common medical condition called pes planus, or flat feet. As I am sure you have noticed, feet come in all shapes and sizes.
However, the general structure of the foot is the same across the board.
Most feet consist of 26 bones, 33 joints as well as over 100 muscles, ligaments and tendons.
There are two main arches present in the foot. One arch runs horizontally across the ball of the foot and the other runs lengthwise along the inside of the foot.
These arches play an important role in the overall mechanical function of the foot.
Flat feet occur when the lengthwise arch collapses allowing the entire sole of the foot to make contact with the ground while weight bearing.
It is important to note that at birth, it is normal for humans to have flat feet as the foot’s arches have yet to develop.
For most people, foot arches begin to develop during childhood. However, in some cases, the arches never develop.
This is a normal variant in foot types, which may or may not cause pain or discomfort.
Other common causes of flat feet include traumatic injuries or simply wear and tear over time. Risk factors such as obesity and arthritis also increase the risk of developing flat feet.
The vast majority of people with flat feet do not experience any symptoms.
However, when symptoms do occur they usually include foot pain, primarily in the arch or heel.
Less commonly, people will experience ankle and knee pain due to altered alignment of the bones in the lower limb. Swelling in the foot and ankle is also commonly reported.
The diagnosis of flat feet is usually arrived at after your doctor performs a physical examination. Taking into account the severity of your symptoms and the physical findings, your doctor will decide if further diagnostic examination is required. X-rays, CT scans, ultrasounds, and MRIs may be requested by your doctor to better visualize the foot.
The good news is that most people with flat feet will not experience any significant symptoms. However, if the arches become painful, your doctor may suggest one of several forms of therapy.
Generally, rest, ice therapy and over-the-counter pain medications will be the first line of treatment.
Weight loss to reduce the amount of stress on your feet is often suggested.
Avoiding activities that aggravate the condition such as high-impact sports that require jumping and bouncing may reduce the irritation in the arch.
Wearing proper footwear that provides good structural support instead of sandals or flat shoes will also provide much needed support.
Generic arch supports may also help to relieve pain associated with flat feet.
However, if these generic supports are not helpful, your doctor may recommend custom-made orthotic devices.
These orthotic devices are molded specifically to fit your feet. Although they do not cure flat feet, orthotics often reduce the symptoms.
In very rare cases, surgery may be required to correct an underlying structural problem with the foot.