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Dealing With Pain In The Arches

Overview
Arch pain occurs with an inflammation of the plantar arch or fascia. It is the thick membrane that covers and supports all the muscles of the sole of the foot from the heel bone to the base of the toes that is called plantar arch. When this membrane pulls excessively (constant strain), pain developes in the arch of the foot or heel.


Causes
Foot cramps are caused by muscles suddenly spasming uncontrollably. They most commonly cause foot arch pain but can occur anywhere in the foot and lower leg. Usually, they only last a few seconds but in more extreme cases they can continue longer. Often, there is no obvious reason why people suffer from foot cramps, but possible causes include diet, muscle tightness and weakness, dehydration, reduced circulation and fatigue. Sometimes, it can be a sign of an underlying medical condition so if the problem keeps recurring, do consult your doctor. Some of the best ways to reduce the incidence of foot arch pain from cramps include doing exercises, using heat, drinking plenty of water, using toe stretchers and ensuring you are wearing good footwear.


Symptoms
The muscle imbalance around the foot and ankle gives rise to a typical pattern of deformity in addition to the high arch (known as cavus). The bone under the big toe (called the first metatarsal) can become very prominent and the toes can curl or clench like a fist (called claw toes). Excessive amount of weight may be placed on the ball and heel of the foot, which can lead to the ankle weakening and giving way (this is referred to as ankle instability) and soreness. Calluses and sometimes stress fractures may occur where the foot is exposed to extra friction or pressure, such as on the outer (or lateral) border of the foot.


Diagnosis
The diagnosis of high arch (cavus) foot deformity or Charcot Marie Tooth disease can be made by an orthopedic surgeon in the office. Evaluation includes a thorough history and physical examination as well as imaging studies such as X-rays. The orthopedic surgeon will look at the overall shape, flexibility, and strength of a patient?s foot and ankle to help determine the best treatment. Nerve tests may occasionally need to be performed to help confirm the diagnosis.


Non Surgical Treatment
Rest is the most important thing you can do. Stay off your feet, or use a cane. Gently apply ice to the arch for at least 30 minutes, and repeat every 3 or 4 hours. Apply mild compression to the foot. Use a Fabriform PSC Foot and Ankle Strap to help support the arch, reduce swelling, and relieve pain and fatigue. This strap is easy to apply and adjust for a custom fit. Low profile allows it to fit in any shoe. Allows you to apply just the right amount of arch support/compression for your foot. Before stepping down after sleeping or resting, stretch the arch of your foot by pulling up on the ball of the foot and toes, as far as you comfortably can; hold the foot in this position for ten seconds. Repeat at least ten times. Consideration should also be given to the use of night splints. These are very effective for stretching the plantar fascia to relieve first weight bearing pain.


Surgical Treatment
Although most patients with plantar fasciitis respond to non- surgical treatment, a small percentage of patients may require surgery. If, after several months of non-surgical treatment, you continue to have heel pain, surgery will be considered. Your foot and ankle surgeon will discuss the surgical options with you and determine which approach would be most beneficial. No matter what kind of treatment you undergo for plantar fasciitis, the underlying causes that led to this condition may remain. Therefore, you will need to continue with preventive measures. Wearing supportive shoes, stretching, and using custom orthotic devices are the mainstays of long-term treatment for plantar fasciitis.


Prevention
People who run regularly should replace shoes every six months, more frequently if an avid runner. Avoid running or stepping on uneven surfaces. Try to be careful on rocky terrain or hills with loose gravel. Holes, tree stumps and roots are problems if you are trail running. If you have problems with the lower legs, a dirt road is softer than asphalt, which is softer than concrete. Try to pick a good surface if possible. However, if you’re racing, be sure to train on the surface you’ll eventually run on. Be careful running too many hills. Running uphill is a great workout, but make sure you gradually build this up to avoid injuries. Be careful when running downhill too fast, which can often lead to more injuries than running uphills. Prevent recurrent injuries. Athletes who have experienced ankle injuries previously may benefit from using a brace or tape to prevent recurrent ankle injuries.


Stretching Exercises
Flexibility is important in preventing injuries. With a simple stretching exercise, you can rehabilitate the muscles of your foot to relieve arch pain and prevent future injuries. This simple exercise by Tammy White and Phyllis Clapis for Relay Health is a good way to strengthen your foot muscles and stretch your plantar fascia. Sit in a chair and cross one foot over your other knee. Grab the base of your toes and pull them back toward your leg until you feel a comfortable stretch. Hold 15 seconds and repeat three times. When you can stand comfortably on your injured foot, you can begin standing to stretch the plantar fascia at the bottom of your foot.

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