How To Soothe The Pain Of Fallen Arches
Fallen arches can be painful not just in the feet
We do take our feet for granted don't we? We squeeze them into tight fitting shoes, high heels, sweaty trainers and many other forms of unhealthy footwear. It's not until we start to feel pain in our feet that we realise just how debilitating this can be. Not only do we have to contend with the foot discomfort but the pain tends to travel to other areas of the body such as the ankle, legs, hips and even the spine.
Fallen or dropped foot arches can, for many people, be a very painful experience. Often it's a case of trial and error to find something to help the pain. What works for one person, may not work for another, so there are a few methods in this article for you to try. However, let's look at what a fallen arch is in a little more detail.
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What happens when you have a fallen arch?
The adult foot when viewed from the side usually has a curve or arch. The arch is formed by tendons - these are tight bands of tissue attaching the heel and foot bones forming the curved shape. There are a few tendons that work together to form this arch which acts as a shock absorber and gives stability to the body. When the tendons work together they form an arch that is not too high or too low. In the latter case, when there is little or no arch, this is called flat feet and people are usually born this way or later in life may develop the condition.
Just because a person has flat feet this does not mean that they will have foot problems such as fallen arches. Most of the time, flat feet cause no difficulties. However, for a few people, being flat footed can put strain on muscles and ligaments that cause pain in the legs. Other causes of fallen arches are:
- Stretched or torn ligaments
- Nerve problems
- Inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis
- An abnormality from birth
- Broken or dislocated bones
- Inflammation of the PTT - (posterior tibial tendon) this connects your lower leg and ankle to the middle of the arch of the foot.
- Medical conditions that affect the spinal cord and brain can also cause the foot arches to fall.
- Over pronation - as a normal movement we automatically turn our foot inwards - normal pronation - as it adapts to the surface it's walking on. However, when this is excessive, the weight of the body is held unevenly. The arch of the foot flattens, causing the arch to collapse, stretching the soft tissues of the foot. In addition, this can make the joints in the foot unstable.
- Fallen arches are more common in women over forty years of age. The exact cause is not known, but some researchers believe that wearing high heels, standing and walking for long periods of time may contribute to the tendons becoming stretched so flattening the arch.
- Other contributing factors can include being over weight, high blood pressure and diabetes.
The main symptoms of a fallen arch are:
- Your feet tire very easily and can be painful when walking.
- The arch and heel in particular can become painful. Sometimes people describe these areas as feeling 'achy'. In addition the outer area of the foot and ankle can also be painful.
- The foot becomes swollen at the inside bottom area.
- Some movement of the feet is difficult such as standing on your toes.
- Many people with fallen arches will also experience leg, hip and back pain.
- Pain can vary from mild discomfort to excruciating - this is particularly the case if tendons become inflamed.
Soothing the pain of fallen arches
The treatment for the pain of fallen arches varies depending on the severity of both the discomfort and how much damage has been done to the foot. In extreme cases surgical procedures can be carried out.
For most people the following tips and advice help to soothe pain from fallen arches. First are the medical assistance you can get and secondly the home treatments.
- General pain relief medication can be taken. With this kind of pain and if swelling is present an anti-inflammatory might be the best choice.
- For persistent and severe pain, steroid injections are given by your doctor.
- There are various medical orthotic devices that can be used to help fallen arches and relieve the pain. Your doctor can advise on what would be best for you. However, many of them can be very expensive, they usually have to be worn at all times and can take a long time to correct the problem.
- Ensure that your footwear is good quality that supports the arch of the foot and doesn't squeeze or cramp your feet. Alternatively footwear that is too wide and loose will cause the foot to slide making any foot pain much worse.
- Keeping your weight healthy not only prevents foot problems but helps to relieve pain as well.
Try some or all of these out and see which ones benefit you the most.
- If the foot is swollen, use ice and rest to reduce the fluid build up and so relieve pain. when resting, elevate your feet to encourage the swelling to recede. This will help to ease pain as well.
- Soaking your feet in warm salty water can help to relieve the pain of not only fallen arches but aching joints and muscles. The salt helps to reduce swelling and inflammation by extracting excess fluid out of the foot. Many people use this recipe - 1/2 cup of sea salt, 1/2 cup of epsom salt to warm water. You can also add essential oils to the water at this stage. I prefer both lavender and chamomile as they do reduce inflammation and help to relieve pain. If your feet are very sore, then try adding either peppermint oil or eucalyptus - or both together - for a stronger pain relieving soak.
- While sitting watching TV gently massage the bottom of your foot. Don't press too hard, just enough to release tension and relax the muscles and tendons to ease pain.
- Again while watching TV, reading etc. Take a tennis ball and using the bottom of your foot, roll the tennis ball around. This is great for gently relaxing the muscles and tendons and can be used for tired feet as well.
- Using a medium sized bottled water or soft drink, fill it with warm water and gently role the bottom of your foot over the bottle to massage the arches. This is a great tension and pain reliever.
- Exercise 1. One of the simplest exercises that helps to sooth aching feet is to scatter a few pencils on the floor and try picking them up with your toes. This gives your feet a good work out as well as relaxing the whole foot. Personally I've tried this one and couldn't manage it all that well!
- Exercise 2. This one is particularly good if you have one of the complications from fallen arches such as 'plantar fasciitis'. This is inflammation of the tendon that connects the bone of your heel with the base of your toes and it can be excruciatingly painful when inflamed or damaged. To get relief, there is an exercise that stretches the tendon gently. Stand about three feet from a wall. Place your hands on the wall, and move your right leg forward, knee bent. Keep your left leg straight, with your heel on the floor. You should feel a gentle stretch in your heel and foot arch. Hold for 10 seconds, then switch sides and repeat.
Try a combination of these techniques to find what's best for you. However, if the pain you are experiencing is bad and/or persistent then speak to your doctor. Fallen arches if severe enough, may cause other physical complications such as 'plantar fasciitis', pain in the ankle, leg, hip and spine. Therefore if you are having difficulty walking or if the pain is in anyway disrupting your life, seek medical advice.
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