Flat Feet: What Causes Them And How Can Physical Therapy Help?

Health & Medical Blog

Flat feet are a common problem in which the arches of your feet begin to fall, causing your instep to come in contact with the ground while you're standing. Arches are commonly used in building bridges because they naturally distribute weight over the entire bridge, and the arch in your foot serves the same purpose— it distributes the weight of your body over your entire foot. When your arches fall and your weight is distributed unevenly across your foot, it can eventually lead to chronic foot pain or overuse injuries.

In order to reduce the pain caused by flat feet, your arches need better support, and one way to strengthen your arches is through physical therapy. Read on for more information about what causes flat feet and how physical therapy can help.

How Do You Know If You Have Flat Feet?

You can easily perform a test at home to find out whether or not you have flat feet— all you need is water and a flattened cardboard box. Dunk your bare feet in water, shake off the excess and then step onto the cardboard box. You'll leave behind a footprint that shows how your feet touch the ground. If your instep is visible in your footprint, that means your arches are in contact when you're standing— this shows that you have flat feet.

As mentioned above, flat feet don't always lead to pain. However, one type of foot pain that's commonly associated with flat feet is a pain that originates at the ball of your foot and moves up towards the inner side of your ankles. This is where your posterior tibial tendon is located, and it's responsible for supporting the arch of your foot. When you have flat feet, walking places a great amount of stress on this tendon, causing it to become sore and inflamed. If you suffer from pain that ranges from the balls of your feet to the inner side of your ankle, it's likely that your flat feet are the cause.

What Causes Flat Feet?

Flat feet are most commonly associated with posterior tibial tendon dysfunction (PTTD.) This occurs when the posterior tibial tendon begins to deteriorate, and there are a number of potential causes. High-impact activities such as running or jumping rope, being overweight, genetics, and aging are all potential causes of PTTD. Once the posterior tibial tendon begins to deteriorate, the arch of your foot is left unsupported and begins to fall— this results in flat feet.

How Can Physical Therapy Help Reduce Pain From Flat Feet?

Physical therapy can be very useful in alleviating pain due to flat feet through biomechanical modification. People who suffer from flat feet often change the way that they walk in order to avoid pain— this unnatural gait sometimes leads to worsening pain, especially in your ankles, legs, and hips. Your physical therapist will teach you how to modify your gait to bring it back in line to a more natural one, which helps to reduce pain.

Additionally, gentle exercises are used to strengthen the muscles in your feet. These include activities such as calf raises and picking up objects with your toes. While your posterior tibial tendon is an important component supporting the arch of your foot, your muscles play a large role as well. When these muscles become stronger, your arch receives more support. This also helps to reduce the pain caused by flat feet.

If you have flat feet and suffer from persistent pain as a result, schedule an appointment at a physical therapy treatment clinic. The exercises and gait modification help to strengthen the muscles and ligaments that support the arch of your foot, allowing it to better distribute your weight— when no single area of your foot receives excess stress from walking, you're much less likely to experience chronic pain.


20 July 2019

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