You arch is the curved, raised area made up of your tarsal and metatarsal bones. It helps distribute some of your body weight off of your heel. It is shaped slightly different for everyone-some have lower or ?flatter? arches than others. This doesn?t always cause pain, but when it does, it can make walking and standing unpleasant and difficult. Generally the muscles and other tissues along the arch and even in the heel ache. The inside of the foot and ankle can also swell uncomfortably. Sometimes arches ?fall? inward from an injury or weakness, flattening out an otherwise normal foot.
There are several reasons why arch pain develops. Sometimes it?s due to a condition known as plantar fasciitis, in which the plantar fascia (the band of tissue that runs along the bottom of your foot from your heel to your toes) becomes inflamed after excessive stress. Heel pain results from this inflammation. Sometimes the pain is due to extensive time spent on your feet. Many people feel pain on the arch of their feet after a long workday, while others overuse their feet exercising or playing sports. A foot deformity, such as hammertoe or clubfoot, can also cause this pain. Medical conditions such as diabetes or obesity can put additional stress on your feet, thereby causing arch pain. Your footwear is also important. Shoes should support all parts of your foot, especially the bottom. This is very important if you spend excessive time on your feet, if your obese, if your pregnant, or if you engage in sport-related activities. Injuries to any of the twenty-six bones, thirty-three joints and over 100 muscles, tendons and ligaments in the feet can also cause arch pain. Because the foot is such a complex structure, it?s important to see a podiatrist at the first sign of symptoms.
Repetitive exertive activity arch pain is usually sharp, and localized to a specific area, rather than the entire arch. Usually the pain occurs in the area just in front of the heel. It is present when first standing on the foot in the morning, but may decrease once you start walking around, but will, gradually becomes worse with continued walking or running. Swelling may be present. The pain subsides with rest, but stretching the arch while resting may cause the pain to return. Injury pain is constantly present, but worse when standing on the foot. This pain is localized to a specific area, but may radiate out from this area to the entire foot. The pain is sharp, and usually accompanied by swelling and occasionally "black and blue" discolorations. The pain due to the natural aging process is usually dull and aching, or stiff, and can be felt throughout the entire arch area, rather then in just one spot. This pain is present whenever weight bearing, and usually becomes worse with continued walking. The pain gradually subsides when resting, and usually does not return with stretching. Biomechanical defect pain is usually localized to a section of the arch, such as the inner, middle, outer, front, or back of the arch. This pain may be sharp or dull, but is always worse with continued walking.
The doctor will examine your feet for foot flexibility and range of motion and feel for any tenderness or bony abnormalities. Depending on the results of this physical examination, foot X-rays may be recommended. X-rays are always performed in a young child with rigid flatfeet and in an adult with acquired flatfeet due to trauma.
Non Surgical Treatment
How the pain in the bottom of your foot is treated will depend heavily on the cause of the pain. Diagnosing the pain while it?s in the early stages is important when determining the best treatment options. If the pain is mild to moderate, simple improvements in footwear can help reduce the symptoms. Most patients must use the RICE method for effective treatment. RICE stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. This is a popular treatment used by athletes. It involves resting the foot, icing it for fifteen to twenty minute intervals, compressing the foot with a bandage, and elevating it at least twelve inches above the heart. Ant-inflammatory and pain medications are also sometimes used to treat bottom-of-foot pain. For more serious cases, steroid injections or foot surgery may help reduce pain and swelling and correct the underlying condition (if there is one.) If you suffer from a severe case of plantar fasciitis and non-surgical methods fail, your doctor may recommend cortisone injections to relieve the pain. If cortisone injections fail, your doctor may recommend a surgical procedure that involves cutting and releasing the plantar fascia.
Foot surgery is difficult, especially when large amounts of deformity correction are needed. The ability to bring the foot into a new position may not be lasting, even if everything looks perfect in the operating room. The goal is to provide improved position and function of the foot and ankle. In some patients with very severe deformity, the goal is a foot that functions well in a brace. There are complications that relate to surgery in general. These include the risks associated with anesthesia, infection, damage to nerves and blood vessels, and bleeding or blood clots. Particular complications associated with cavus foot surgery include incomplete correction of deformity, return of deformity and incomplete fusion.
To prevent arch pain, it is important to build up slowly to your exercise routine while wearing arch supports inside training shoes. By undertaking these simple measures you can prevent the discomfort of arch pain which can otherwise linger for many months. While you allow the foot to recover, it will help to undertake low impact exercises (such as swimming or water aerobics).
Massage therapy is a great way to loosen muscles and help improve mobility in in your feet. As many people with foot pain have discovered, tight muscles in your legs or back can lead to tense foot muscles. All those muscles are connected, so tension in your back can cause tension in your legs which can pull the tendons in your feet and cause stiffness and pain. Getting acupuncture or a professional full body massage are probably the best ways to deal with this, but there are also some simple tricks you can do at home to help keep muscles limber. These are great for loosening up and improving circulation, both before and after exercise. Place a tennis ball under the arch of your bare foot and roll it around, stretching the muscles in your foot and promoting blood flow. You can also roll the ball under your calves and upper legs to work out stiffness and knots. If you feel the tennis ball is too easy, try a lacrosse ball for deeper massaging. This is also demonstrated in the exercise video above. Use a foam roller, those big overpriced rolls of foam that are now available in every department and sporting goods store are fantastic for self-massage (why a roll of foam costs $30 is beyond us, but they do work wonders-our advice is to not waste money on the more expensive fancy grooved ones because even the simplest rollers work great). The exercises you can do with foam rollers seem to be endless, and there are literally hundreds of free videos online showing how to use them to massage every part of your body. Here's one we picked out that specifically targets foot and leg muscles related to arches and plantar fasciitis.