From time to time those of you (especially those who are quite active, have begun a fitness campaign or spend long periods of time on their feet) may have experienced arch pain in one or both of your feet. In this blog we will look at the biomechanical cause and factors of this type of pain, and the ways in which it can be treated and prevented.
Firstly, let’s look at the biomechanical factors and most common causes of arch pain. The most common cause of arch pain is a “tendonitis” (i.e. inflammation of a tendon) of one or both of the main tendons of leg muscles that join onto foot bones around the arch and function to resist that arch from flattening. If an individual has a flat foot or “pronated” foot type, then that means they have an arch that is flattening while they are walking or exercising. Therefore, if the arch is flattening during activity, the tendons of these muscles have to work overtime to try to hold up the arch and fight this excessive flattening. If they are overworked, then they will become irritated, which in turn causes “tendonitis”. In some cases these muscles can become irritated on their attachment onto the shin bones (but this will be addressed in the shin pain blog), however in other cases they will become irritated on or close to their insertion on the bones of the foot. Other causes of arch pain are irritation of the bones themselves that form the arch of the foot (the most infamous being the Navicular- well known in AFL circles) which can lead to stress fractures; and irritation of the Plantar Aponeurosis, a structure that runs along the arch of the foot (most commonly a cause of heel pain, however can be painful further along in the arch) which can lead to a condition known as Plantar Fasciitis (Fa-shee-eye-tis). The latter is mentioned in blogs about heel pain.
So, with all that in mind, how do we fix it? Well, the answer is one some of you may have guessed. Orthotics! These devices are fundamental in the treatment of most biomechanical issues because they treat the cause of the pain- “faulty biomechanics”. You can treat the symptoms with things like stretching, massage, ice/heat, ultrasound, etc. (all of which are brilliant in pain relief) but without treating the fundamental cause of your pain, you are prone to these symptoms reoccurring down the track. The way orthoses work is that they hold up your arch in a “neutral” position (i.e. the ideal position for your arch that isn’t considered “flat”), stop it from flattening and therefore prevent the tendons mentioned from being overworked. This in turn, leads to pain free movement and most importantly, a happier you! Also, don’t be scared if you have had orthotics in the past and they haven’t worked or you have found them uncomfortable. At Foot Solutions, we have many types of orthotics and will find the right one for you!
Note: tendonitis is mentioned in quotation marks because research has found that inflammation of a tendon isn’t technically what occurs- however, for simplicity in this blog I have used the common term of tendonitis, rather than tendinosis or tendinopathy.
Written by Ben Toniolo
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