Fallen Arches - Are You at Risk For Developing Arthritis?
It may sound like a cliché but our feet, and in particular the arches of our feet, really are the structural foundations of our body. Fallen arches is a term used to describe complete flattening out of the arch. When the arch flattens out the foot loses much of its biomechanical functioning. In addition the biomechanics of the knee, hip and low back are adversely affected when the arch of the foot loses its structural integrity.
The arch of the foot maintains it structural integrity with the help of the muscles, tendon and ligaments. The proper functioning of the arch depends on the proper functioning of all three of these elements. You actually want the arch to flatten out during walking or running so that the foot can act as a shock absorber. However at the end of the step you need the arch to re-lock and turn the foot back into a firm lever arm for push-off. Excess body weight, excessive running, walking or even standing can lead to stretching of the ligaments, tendons and muscles that keep the arch locked. This can eventually lead to complete flattening of the arch.
When the arch collapses the foot is unable to act as a firm lever arm to push-off and propel you forward during walking or running. As a result the muscles of the lower leg have to work much harder in order to propel you forward. This causes pain and fatigue of the lower leg, pain in the foot and pain on the front of the leg. In addition the plantar fascia on the bottom of the foot gets overly stretched and strained leading to the painful condition know as plantar fasciitis.
The foot and lower leg are not the only areas where fallen arches can cause problems. When the arch collapses the rest of the body has to compensate. As a result the other joints become unbalanced and do not function properly. For example, the proper functioning of the knee depends upon the body weight being evenly distributed over the entire joint. When the knee has to compensate for a flattened arch, the outside of the knee is forced to take more of the load than the inside. This overloads the cartilage on that side of the knee, causes pain on that side of the knee and increases the risk for developing arthritis. In addition the muscles, ligaments and tendons on the other side of the knee are stretched and strained which can cause pain and knee instability (for more information see knee pain). We could make similar analysis for the joints of the hip and low back but the point I am trying to make is that the biomechanics of the foot is important for the proper functioning of the rest of the body. Although the explanation of the problem can be somewhat complicated the solution to this problem is relatively simple. A properly designed arch support or custom foot orthotic will hold the correct shape of the arch. This in turn allows the foot to work as a firm lever arm. An arch support will align the joints of the ankle, which in turn balances out the knee, hip and low back. A simple arch support can solve a lot of problems without medications, surgery. Yet it is amazing how many people walk around everyday in pain when the solution is so simple. This simple solution is an arch support.
Please visit us for more information on arch supports.
Dr. Jeffrey Davies, a board certified family physician, also has a Master's degree in biomedical engineering. Prior to entering medical school Dr. Davies spent 12 years conducting research on hip and knee biomechanics at the Massachusetts General Hospital. Dr. Davies' continued interest in biomechanics has led him to study how problems with the foot may lead to knee, hip and back pain. Dr. Davies explains, "Abnormal foot motion can cause excessive rotation of the lower leg and thus stress concentrations in the hip and knee cartilage. I believe that if the slight imbalances of the foot are correctly diagnosed and then corrected with foot orthotics not only will the foot, knee and hip pain be relieved but the devastating effects of osteoarthritis may be prevented."
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