The sensation of sore, aching feet or arch pain refers to an inflammation and burning sensation at the arch of the foot. This inflammation is due to the excessive stretching of the fibrous tissue located along the bottom surface of the foot, called plantar fascia. Plantar fascitis is the term named after this condition and described as inflammation of the fascia, muscles and ligaments on the bottom of the foot, causing pain in the heel and arch of the foot.
Conditions that affect the nervous system (brain and spinal cord) can also cause the arches to fall. Over time, the muscles gradually become stiffer and weaker and lose their flexibility. Conditions where this can occur include cerebral palsy, spina bifida and muscular dystrophy. Adult-acquired flat feet often affect women over 40 years of age. It often goes undiagnosed and develops when the tendon that supports the foot arch gradually stretches over time. It’s not fully understood what causes the tendon to become stretched, but some experts believe that wearing high heels and standing or walking for long periods may play a part. Obesity, high blood pressure (hypertension) and diabetes are all risk factors.
Arch pain symptoms could include any of the following, a dull, constant ache if the ligaments have been stretched, swelling or tenderness in the foot, redness or bruising in the event of a more serious injury, difficulty putting weight on the foot, sharp pain when the foot is turned or manipulated, tenderness when pressure is applied. Because the arch of the foot is such a complex structure, arch pain could be an indicator of several different types of injuries. Chronic illnesses such as arthritis could also cause arch pain, and depending on the cause or source of your pain, you may experience discomfort in a variety of different areas. Ask a doctor if you believe you may have injured your foot arch.
Your doctor may order imaging tests to help make sure your heel pain is caused by plantar fasciitis and not another problem. X-rays provide clear images of bones. They are useful in ruling out other causes of heel pain, such as fractures or arthritis. Heel spurs can be seen on an x-ray. Other imaging tests, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and ultrasound, are not routinely used to diagnose plantar fasciitis. They are rarely ordered. An MRI scan may be used if the heel pain is not relieved by initial treatment methods.
Non Surgical Treatment
There is considerable debate about the best treatment option for plantar fasciitis. Some authors suggest all of the ‘mainstream’ methods of treatment don’t actually help at all and can actually make the symptoms worse! However, on the whole, there are several of the most commonly cited treatment options for plantar fasciitis and these are generally accepted throughout the medical community. I would recommend giving these options a try if you haven’t already. Rest. This is mainly applicable to the sports people as rest is possible treatment. (For those who cannot rest e.g. people who work on their feet – skip to the other treatment options below). Rest until it is not painful. This is made more difficult as people need to use their feet to perform daily activities but certainly stop sporting activities that are likely to be putting the fascia under excessive stress. Perform Self Micro-Massage (you can watch this video by clicking the link or scrolling further down the page as it’s embedded on this lens!) This massage technique is used to break down fibrous tissue and also to stimulate blood flow to the area, both of which encourage healing and reduce pain. There is also a potentially soothing effect on nerve endings which will contribute to pain relief. Ice Therapy. Particularly useful after spending periods on your feet to reduce the inflammation. Wrap some ice or a bag of frozen peas in a towel and hold against the foot for up to 10 minutes. Repeat until symptoms have resolved. Heat Therapy. Heat therapy can be used (not after activity) to improve blood flow to the area to encourage healing. A heat pack of hot water bottle can be used. 10 minutes is ideal. Careful not to burn yourself! A good taping technique. By taping the foot in a certain way you can limit the movement in the foot and prevent the fascia from over-stretching and gives it a chance to rest and heal. Click on the link for more information on taping techniques. Weight Management. If you are over-weight, any weight you can loose will help to ease the burden on your sore feet and plantar fascia. Orthotic devices (often mis-spelled orthodic) are special insoles that can be used to limit over-pronation (discussed earlier) and control foot function. By preventing the arches flattening excessively, the plantar fascia is not over-stretched to the same extent and this should help with the symptoms and encourage healing. Stretching the calf muscles (again, click this link or scroll to the bottom of the page to watch the embedded video) can help to lengthen these muscles and the Achilles tendon – a risk factor for plantar fasciitis. Stretching of the plantar fascia itself is also encouraged, particularly before getting up the morning (night splints can be used for this effect) and after periods of rest. This can be achieved by placing a towel or band under the ball of the foot and gently pulling upwards until a stretch is felt. Hold for about 15-20 seconds then rest briefly. Repeat 2-3 times. As you can see there are many different treatment options available. Try incorporating some of these in to your daily routine and see what works for you. Regardless of the method the main aim is to prevent the fascia from over-stretching! Medical professionals such as a Podiatrist may decide to make custom orthotics or try ultra-sound therapy. It is likely that anti-inflammatory medications will also be recommended. If you have tried the treatment options and your symptoms persist I’d recommend going to see a medical professional for further advice.
If you have pain that has not been responsive to other treatments, there is a new non-surgical treatment that was recently approved by the FDA. ESWT (extracorporeal shockwave therapy) uses strong electrohydraulic acoustic (sound) energy that triggers the body?s natural repair mechanism. This treatment method is safe, effective and requires a very short recovery period compared to older surgical techniques.
Arch pain occurs when the plantar fascia becomes worn down due to constant strain or excessive exercising. This may be caused by increasing your running or hiking mileage too fast, wearing inadequate footwear, lack of stretching, running on steep hills, standing on your feet for too long and abnormal anatomy such as flat foot. Stretching is an important exercise that should not be overlooked because the tightness or lack of tightness of the joints in the foot can also cause pain in the arch.
Stretching your calf and Achilles tendon may also help as a tight Achilles can make your foot overpronate. To stretch your calf and Achilles tendon, step forwards with your left leg and bend it, with your right leg straight and both feet pointing forwards. Push your right heel into the ground while keeping your right leg straight; you should feel the stretch at the back of your right leg, below the knee. Hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds and repeat with the opposite leg. Repeat the stretch two to four times on each leg, and repeat the overall exercise three to four times a day.