Most flat feet are not painful, particularly those flat feet seen in children. In the adult acquired flatfoot, pain occurs because soft tissues (tendons and ligaments) have been torn. The deformity progresses or worsens because once the vital ligaments and posterior tibial tendon are lost, nothing can take their place to hold up the arch of the foot. The painful, progressive adult acquired flatfoot affects women four times as frequently as men. It occurs in middle to older age people with a mean age of 60 years. Most people who develop the condition already have flat feet. A change occurs in one foot where the arch begins to flatten more than before, with pain and swelling developing on the inside of the ankle. Why this event occurs in some people (female more than male) and only in one foot remains poorly understood. Contributing factors increasing the risk of adult acquired flatfoot are diabetes, hypertension, and obesity.
A person with flat feet has greater load placed on the posterior tibial tendon which is the main tendon unit supporting up the arch of the foot. Throughout life, aging leads to decreased strength of muscles, tendons and ligaments. The blood supply diminishes to tendons with aging as arteries narrow. Heavier, obese patients have more weight on the arch and have greater narrowing of arteries due to atherosclerosis. In some people, the posterior tibial tendon finally gives out or tears. This is not a sudden event in most cases. Rather, it is a slow, gradual stretching followed by inflammation and degeneration of the tendon. Once the posterior tibial tendon stretches, the ligaments of the arch stretch and tear. The bones of the arch then move out of position with body weight pressing down from above. The foot rotates inward at the ankle in a movement called pronation. The arch appears collapsed, and the heel bone is tilted to the inside. The deformity can progress until the foot literally dislocates outward from under the ankle joint.
Pain and swelling behind the inside of your ankle and along your instep. You may be tender behind the inner ankle where the posterior tibial tendon courses and occasionally get burning, shooting, tingling or stabbing pain as a result of inflammation of the nerve inside the tarsal tunnel. Difficulty walking, the inability to walk long distances and a generalised ache while walking even short distances. This may probably become more pronounced at the end of each day. Change in foot shape, sometimes your tendon stretches out, this is due to weakening of the tendon and ligaments. When this occurs, the arch in your foot flattens and a flatfoot deformity occurs, presenting a change in foot shape. Inability to tip-toe, a way of diagnosing Posterior Tibial Tendon Dysfunction is difficulty or inability to ?heel rise? (stand on your toes on one foot). Your tibialis posterior tendon enables you to perform this manoeuvre effectively. You may also experience pain upon attempting to perform a heel rise.
The history and physical examination are probably the most important tools the physician uses to diagnose this problem. The wear pattern on your shoes can offer some helpful clues. Muscle testing helps identify any areas of weakness or muscle impairment. This should be done in both the weight bearing and nonweight bearing positions. A very effective test is the single heel raise. You will be asked to stand on one foot and rise up on your toes. You should be able to lift your heel off the ground easily while keeping the calcaneus (heel bone) in the middle with slight inversion (turned inward). X-rays are often used to study the position, shape, and alignment of the bones in the feet and ankles. Magnetic resonance (MR) imaging is the imaging modality of choice for evaluating the posterior tibial tendon and spring ligament complex.
Non surgical Treatment
Treatment of Adult Acquired Flatfoot Deformity depends on the stage of progression, as mentioned above paragraphs. Below we will outline a variety of different treatment options available. Orthotics or bracing. To give your foot the arch the support it needs, your podiatrist or foot specialist may provide you with over the counter brace or a custom orthotic device that fits your shoe. Casting. In some cases, a cast or boot is worn to stabilize the foot and to give the tendon time to heal. Physiotherapy. Ultrasound treatments and exercises may help rehab the tendon and muscles. Medications. Over-the-counter (NSAIDS) such as ibuprofen can help reduce pain, inflammation and swelling associated with AAFD. Shoe Gear. Your podiatrist may suggest changes with your shoes you are wearing and inserts you need in your shoe to help support your arch.
In cases of PTTD that have progressed substantially or have failed to improve with non-surgical treatment, surgery may be required. For some advanced cases, surgery may be the only option. Symptomatic flexible flatfoot conditions are common entities in both the adolescent and adult populations. Ligamentous laxity and equinus play a significant role in most adolescent deformities. Posterior tibial tendon dysfunction (PTTD) is the most common cause of adult acquired flatfoot. One should consider surgical treatment for patients who have failed nonoperative therapy and have advancing symptoms and deformities that significantly interfere with the functional demands of daily life. Isolated Joint Fusion. This technique is used for well reducible flat foot by limiting motion at one or two joints that are usually arthritic. The Evans Anterior Calcaneal Osteotomy. This is indicated for late stage II adult acquired flatfoot and the flexible adolescent flatfoot. This procedure will address midtarsal instability, restore the medial longitudinal arch and reduce mild hind foot valgus. The Posterior Calcaneal Displacement Osteotomy (PCDO). This technique is indicated for late stage I and early stage II PTTD with reducible Calcaneal valgus. This is often combined with a tendon transfer. A PCDO is also indicated as an adjunctive procedure in the surgical reconstruction of the severe flexible adolescent flatfoot. Soft tissue procedure. On their own these are not very effective but in conjunction with an osseous procedure, soft tissue procedures can produce good outcome. Common ones are tendon and capsular repair, tendon lengthening and transfer procedures. Flat foot correction requires lengthy post operative period and a lot of patience. Your foot may need surgery but you might simply not have the time or endurance to go through the rehab phase of this type of surgery. We will discuss these and type of procedures necessary for your surgery in length before we go further with any type of intervention.