Discomfort across the bottom of the foot at any point between the heel and the ball of the foot is often referred to as ?arch pain.? Arch pain is a non-specific term. Most arch pain is due to strain or inflammation of the arthritis, deformity, plantar fasciitis. Plantar fasciitis is sometimes associated with a heel spur. In most cases, arch pain develops from overuse, unsupportive shoes, weight gain, or acute injury. If arch pain persists beyond a few days, see a foot and ankle surgeon for treatment to prevent this condition from becoming worse.
The normal arch is made up of bones and joints, which are held tightly together, in a precise relationship. When this relationship is subjected to repeated abnormal weight, or the normal weight of a lifetime, the force breaks up this normal relationship, causing bones to shift and joints to buckle. This allows the arch to collapse, and produces pain. The ability of the arch to absorb the shock of each step is reduced, so that continued walking will eventually produce pain in the knee, hip, and lower back. All four of the above categories will eventually cause this to happen. Arch pain can also be a manifestation of heel spur or nerve injury in the heel area. There are also certain types of benign growths that can cause arch pain i.e. Plantar fibromatosis.
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 medical practitioner will examine how the muscles of your foot function. These tests may involve holding or moving your foot and ankle against resistance; you may also asked to stand, walk, or even run. Pain caused by movements may indicate the cause of the pain. The nerves in the foot will be tested to make sure no injury has occurred there. An x-ray, MRI, or bone scan of the foot and arch may be taken to determine if there are changes in the makeup of the bone.
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.
The soft tissue surgeries usually would include a lengthening of the Achilles tendon, releasing of the plantar fascia as well as tendon transfers. These procedures are usually done in conjunction with bony procedures such as calcaneal osteotomies (to lower the heel bone and get it more under the leg itself), as well as metatarsal osteotomies. These procedures usually involve either cutting or fusion of the bones, and placement of fixation devices to allow the bones to heal. Healing time is usually at least 6-8 weeks and usually the patient must be non-weight bearing during the healing process. These types of surgical corrections are usually reserved for the more difficult, painful and deformed feet. They can require more surgeries down the line. These procedures are usually the last resort after all other modes of treatment have been exhausted (except in children where it is usually best to treat the deformity early). There are many different degrees of high arched feet and these procedures should be left for the more extreme cases. These cases usually require a very high degree of surgical skill and should only be done by those who frequently perform these types of cases.
The best method for preventing plantar fasciitis is stretching. The plantar fascia can be stretched by grabbing the toes, pulling the foot upward and holding for 15 seconds. To stretch the calf muscles, place hands on a wall and drop affected leg back into a lunge step while keeping the heel of the back leg down. Keep the back knee straight for one stretch and then bend the knee slightly to stretch a deeper muscle in the calf. Hold stretch for 15 seconds and repeat three times.
Strength training and stretching can help avoid injury and keep your feet free from pain. Stretching should focus on the bottom of your foot to loosen tissues and tight ligaments surrounding your arch. The easiest way to do this is by grabbing a towel and sitting on the floor. You can do this while you catch up on the news in the morning, or when you get home from work. Put one leg out in front with your foot flexed up. Loop the towel around the ball of your foot and gently pull your toes towards you. Hold for thirty seconds and then repeat 3-4 times before switching feet.