For Patients Suffering Flatfoot: Don’t Wait to Seek Help
Early Diagnosis and Treatment Can Lead to Improved Outcomes
Austin, Texas, February 11, 2016
- Early diagnosis and treatment for adults suffering from a painful fallen foot arch, or adult-acquired flatfoot, is key to increase improved long-term outcomes, reduce the likelihood of more severe foot deformities and lessen the need for surgical intervention.
Adult-acquired flatfoot and other complex foot and ankle disorders are the topic of discussion among foot and ankle surgeons at the Annual Scientific Conference of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons (ACFAS) in Austin, Texas.
While flatfoot is a very common foot condition, foot and ankle surgeons say it is a complex disorder with varying degrees of deformity and disability. "Most all types of flatfoot have one characteristic in common: partial or total loss of the arch, which means the upward curve in the middle of the foot is virtually gone," says Kris DiNucci, DPM, FACFAS, a Scottsdale foot and ankle surgeon and Fellow Member of ACFAS.
Adults suffering flatfoot might see a progressive deformity that commonly results from either a stretched or torn Achilles tendon (the bands that attach at the heel and foot bones, forming the arch) or calf muscle. The muscle or tendon tends to over-pull, leading to strain on the inside of the foot and ankle and the result is a flatfoot deformity that can cause pain and make the foot appear to be flat on the bottom.
According to Dr. DiNucci, patients with flatfoot deformity often experience pain, redness and swelling on the bottom of the foot, especially near where the arch should be, and find that feet movement (such as standing on toes) is difficult or impossible. Patients might also experience back and/or leg pain associated with the loss of the arch.
Feet that suffer from flatfoot generally fall into two categories: flexible or rigid. Flexible flatfoot is a normal arch when non-weight bearing, or sitting, with disappearance of the arch when standing. The flexible flatfoot may or may not cause tenderness. In the case of rigid flatfoot, the arch is stiff and flat when both sitting and standing. In either case, there are a variety of underlying causes, requiring different treatments.
"The earlier a patient is diagnosed, the more likely they are to be able to benefit from conservative, nonsurgical methods to fix the problem," Dr. DiNucci says. The longer a patient has suffered the effects of flatfoot, the more likely they are to need surgery.
According to DiNucci, foot and ankle surgeons first try less invasive, more conservative measures to solve the problem, including decreased activity, physical therapy, shoe inserts (orthotics), immobilization, anti-inflammatory drugs and weight loss. If nonsurgical treatments fail to help symptoms and deformities persist or worsen, more extensive treatments, including surgery, may be required.
For more information on flatfoot care or other foot and ankle health information, visit the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons' patient education website at FootHealthFacts.org