The phrase “fallen arches” might conjure up all sorts of images. After all, the world is full of famous arches, and it is easy enough to imagine them falling. Of course, no one wants a beautiful and iconic example of classic architecture to fall.
But no one wants the arches of their feet to fall either!
The condition commonly known as fallen arches is officially called “posterior tibial tendon dysfunction.” For our purposes here, the two most important words are “tendon” and “dysfunction.”
Fallen arches occur when the tendon that provides support for the arch of your foot and stability for walking undergoes a change. The tendon can be damaged as the result of a fall, due to overuse in athletic activity (particularly high impact activity), or simply due to normal wear and tear over a long period of time.
The damage to the tendon can cause persistent pain along the inside of the foot and ankle. Other symptoms can include worsening pain when a person is active or walking on uneven terrain, swelling on the inside of the ankle, and/or difficulty standing or walking for lengthy periods. After a while, pain may develop on the outside of the ankle because the damage to the tendon has allowed the heel bone to shift in that direction.
Long and short: fallen arches are painful.
If you are having the kinds of symptoms we’ve described, it is time to see a podiatrist.
Treatment Options From Simple to Surgery
As a general rule, your doctor will want to start with more conservative treatments—the simplest of which would be to stop doing the activities that lead to foot pain. That may be a simple solution, but it won’t be an appealing one to anyone with an active lifestyle.
Other treatment options include over-the-counter pain relievers, losing weight to lessen the pressure on the foot, shifting to lower impact activities, and/or wearing a cast, walking boot, or orthotics. Some combination of these approaches may provide a significant amount of pain relief.
But if the pain doesn’t abate after six months of trying these sorts of interventions, then your doctor may recommend surgery to fix the problem.
Kinds of Surgeries to Correct Fallen Arches
Broadly speaking, there are three kinds of surgeries that can be employed to address fallen arches. They include:
- Fusing joints in order to eliminate pain and correct deformity
- Cutting bones and sliding them into different locations (these procedures are known as osteotomies)
- Transferring a tendon from another bone to the foot to providing the missing support
The Road to Recovery
As you might imagine, recovery from any of the three kinds of surgery we listed above can take some time. In most cases, the initial stage of recovery will last between six and 12 weeks. Your doctor will want to see you every few weeks to see how things are progressing.
As your recovery continues, you will likely be able to mark your progress by what you are wearing on your feet. You’ll progress from a cast to an orthopedic boot (to keep the foot immobilized) to an ankle brace. Meanwhile, physical therapy can help you regain your full range of motion.
If Your Arches Have Fallen, We Can Provide the Support You Need
If you are experiencing pain in your feet or ankles, the team at InStride Carolina Podiatry Group can diagnose the problem and recommend the best course of treatment. Our goal is to get you back to enjoying the full range of the activities you enjoy. Your feet are central to just about everything you do, so it doesn’t make sense to ignore problems that will only worsen with time. Let us help instead.
Dr. Percival or Dr. Harris can help you find relief from ongoing pain—but you have to take that all-important first step. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you.