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People With Flat Feet More Likely To Have Joint Problems, Arthritis, Low Back Pain: Doctors

Timely treatment can help ease the pain associated with flat feet as well as prevent one from undergoing surgery.

Written by Longjam Dineshwori |Updated : September 17, 2022 1:35 PM IST

Having flat feet or fallen arches can raise the risk of developing joint degradation and arthritis, say doctors while highlighting the importance of timely management that can also help avoid surgery.

People with flat feet will typically experience pain on the inner side of the feet associated with swelling mainly while walking and standing for long duration. If left untreated, it can lead to joint problems, arthritis, and low back problems. So, orthopedic surgeons are encouraging those with flat feet to seek timely treatment, which can help ease the pain associated with flat feet as well as prevent one from undergoing surgery.

Causes of flat feet

Various factors can cause flat fleet such as family history, obesity, diabetes, and old age.

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Compared to the total population, 10-20 per cent of people are found to have flat feet, and the condition is commonly seen in children and adults, according to Dr Vishwajeet Chavan, Orthopedic Surgeon, Apollo Spectra Pune.

He says, "People with flat feet tend to have a medial arch lower than normal or will even touch the ground."

Dr Shyam Thakkar, Foot and ankle Surgeon, Lokmanya Hospital, Pune, elaborates that flat feet can present in early adolescence or later in elderly population.

He continues, "A child can have flat feet if anyone in the family has them or it can be due to additional bone in the foot. Adult acquired flat foot is usually due to wear and tear of a tendon in the foot. Other causes are obesity, diabetes, and previous injury. Flat feet are typically associated with excessive pronation of the foot. Because of their tendency to overpronate, flat feet are less able to absorb shock, placing persistent stress on the feet, ankles, and knees."

Flat feet are of 2 types

There are 2 types of flat feet: Flexible and Rigid (Non-flexible).

Dr Chavan explains, "Children will have two types of flat foot. The arch appears when the child is not walking and flattens out when he/she starts walking. This means flexible or correctable flat foot and is not so serious. But, when the inside arch appears flat whether the child is walking or resting, it can be termed a rigid or non-correctable flat foot and can turn grave in the near future."

Signs and symptoms of flat feet

According to Dr Chavan, the signs and symptoms of the flat foot are foot fatigue, pain while walking, and the pain can even spread to the arch of the foot, calf, knee, hip, lower back and lower legs.

Treatment and diagnosis of flat feet

Ones with flat feet have higher chances of joint degeneration or early onset of arthritis, says Dr Chavan, as he stresses the importance of timely management.

"One with a flat foot can be recommended to do an X-ray or CT scan to determine the cause of the pain and the condition of the tendons in the foot. Resting, icing, pain-relieving medications can do the trick," he adds.

Dr Thakkar also agrees that the diagnosis of flat feet in an early stage is important to prevent one from developing serious complications related to it. But he also points out that the condition is often misdiagnosed as increased uric acid levels or due to uncontrolled blood pressure or sugar levels.

It can usually be self-diagnosed by looking at their own wet foot print while standing on a smooth surface.

Talking about the treatment, Dr Thakkar says flat feet is usually treated with strengthening and stretching exercises along with supportive customized insoles and well-fitted shoes.

Dr Thakkar continues, "Losing weight can be beneficial in case of symptomatic flat foot along with other treatments suggested by the doctor. Tackling obesity and diabetes can reduce pain. Likewise, a well-balanced diet and exercise regimen will help to relieve pressure on the feet along with physiotherapy. However, some people may require surgical correction for re-aligning the bones of the foot into normal shape."

If left untreated, the surgery required in later stages becomes quite expensive and may take longer recovery time, warns Dr Thakkar.

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