If you are dealing with chronic pain in the arch of your foot (the area between the ball and heel) it may be diagnosed as arch strain. While there are several potential causes for arch pain, the most common cause is plantar fasciitis. The plantar fascia is the band of ligaments that runs along the sole of the foot, connecting the heel bone to the metatarsals (bones just behind the toes.) Its job is to support the arch of your foot, and to put some ?spring in your step.? But, unfortunately, it?s the sight of an all-to-common inflammation that causes intense pain in the heel and across the bottom of the foot. This inflammation and pain is known as plantar fasciitis.
The arches are the primary structures of the body that absorb and return force to and from the body to the outside world when we are on our feet. When something happens to these structures, pain and injury may result. There can be many causes of arch pain. Direct force trauma, ligament sprains, muscle strains, poor biomechanical alignment,stress fractures, overuse, inflammatory arthritis or the tightness or lack of tightness of the joints in the foot may all cause pain in the arch. Injury to the plantar fascia is a common cause of arch pain. The plantar fascia is the thick, connective tissue which supports the arch on the bottom of the foot. It runs from the calcaneus (heel) forwards to the heads of the metatarsals. When the plantar fascia is damaged, the resulting inflammatory response may become a source of arch pain.
Symptoms of plantar fasciitis may occur anywhere along the arch, but it is most common near its attachment to the heel bone. Symptoms of plantar fasciitis vary, but the classic symptom is pain after rest--when you first get out of bed in the morning, or when you get up after sitting down for a while during the day. This is known as "post-static dyskinesia." The pain usually diminishes after a few minutes of walking, sometimes even disappearing, but the pain is commonly felt again the longer you're on the foot. Fasciitis can be aggravated by shoes that lack appropriate support, especially in the arch area, and by the chronic irritation of long-periods of standing, especially on concrete, and by being overweight. Other factors which influence this condition are gender (females get this more than men), age (30s to 50s are most common), and those with flatter-than-normal feet. It doesn't help that fascia doesn't heal particularly quickly. This is because it has relatively poor circulation, which is why it's white in colour.
Diagnosis of a plantar plate tear can often be challenging due to the complex nature of the anatomy of the foot. Careful history taking and an examination of the area of pain is required to determine the extent and cause of the tear. If necessary, further investigations such as x-rays or diagnostic ultrasound may be ordered by your podiatrist to help evaluate the severity of the problem.
Non Surgical Treatment
Consult a doctor to diagnose the condition and determine the cause. If revealed to be plantar fasciitis, please refer to our article on that injury for further information. Generally arch pain is easy to treat, with the most effective method of treatment being the placement of arch supports in the shoes. This counteracts the strain placed on the arches by biomechanical errors, causing them to cease stretching excessively. A specialist can recommend the inserts suitable to your needs, which will depend on the shape of your arches. These supports should lessen your symptoms within days. If pain is severe you should refrain from running activities until it subsides to avoid risking an aggravation of the injury. To maintain fitness, alter your training program temporarily to be focused on low-impact sports like swimming. Applying ice to the affected area should assist in reducing pain and swelling.
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.
Warm up properly. This means not only stretching prior to a given athletic event, but a gradual rather than sudden increase in volume and intensity over the course of the training season. A frequent cause of plantar fasciitis is a sudden increase of activity without suitable preparation. Avoid activities that cause pain. Running on steep terrain, excessively hard or soft ground, etc can cause unnatural biomechanical strain to the foot, resulting in pain. This is generally a sign of stress leading to injury and should be curtailed or discontinued. Shoes, arch support. Athletic demands placed on the feet, particularly during running events, are extreme. Injury results when supportive structures in the foot have been taxed beyond their recovery capacity. Full support of the feet in well-fitting footwear reduces the likelihood of injury. Rest and rehabilitation. Probably the most important curative therapy for cases of plantar fasciitis is thorough rest. The injured athlete must be prepared to wait out the necessary healing phase, avoiding temptation to return prematurely to athletic activity.
Inchworm. Stand with your weight on one foot. Raise the metatarsal heads of the unweighted foot while you pull its heel closer to your toes. Next, raise your toes toward the ceiling, and then relax your whole foot with it flat on the floor. Your foot should move like an inchworm across the floor. Reps 6-7 for each foot. Horsepawing. Stand with your weight on one foot and the other foot slightly in front of you. Raise the metatarsal heads on the front foot. Lift your heel ever so slightly off the ground, maintaining the raised metatarsal heads, and pull your foot toward you so that it ends up behind you. Return this foot to the starting position in front of you. You should really feel this one in your arch. Reps. 6-7 for each foot. Toe pushups. Sit in a chair with your feet resting on the floor. Raise your heel as high as you can while keeping your toes flat on the floor. This is the starting position. Using your toe muscles, roll your foot upward until the weight of your foot is resting on the ends of your toes, like a dancer standing on point in toe shoes. Roll back down to the starting position. Reps. 10-20 for each foot. Sand scraping. Pretend you are at the beach standing in loose sand. Use your big toe to pull sand inward toward your body, with your little toe off the ground. Then use your little toe to push it away, with your big toe off the ground. Reps. 10 for each foot. Now reverse the exercise: pull the sand inward with your little toe and push it away with your big toe. Reps. 10 for each foot.