Are you suffering from flat feet? It’s a very common condition. Up to 25% of adults in the United States have flat feet, or pes planus. For some, it’s not a problem, but others suffer from pain and discomfort from the condition. Flat feet reconstruction surgery may be an option if you’re experiencing symptoms related to the condition.
What Does “Flat Feet” Mean?
Before we discuss flat feet reconstruction surgery, let’s explore the condition itself. What does it mean to have flat feet? With normal feet, the arch stands above the ground. However, if you have flat feet, at least one arch is very low to the ground when you stand upright.
Flat Foot Symptoms
Many people never experience symptoms from their flat feet. However, a significant number of people do. Those symptoms can be quite uncomfortable. They include:
- Pain in the foot, particularly in the heel and arch area
- Pain in the leg
- Pain in the back
- Swollen feet and ankles
Not all flat feet are the same, though. There are several different types, including flexible flat feet, semi-flexible flat feet, and rigid flat feet.
What Causes Flat Feet?
The collapse of the foot’s arch causes flat feet. A misalignment in the ankle and heel bones forces the natural arch in your foot to sag. If your feet are misaligned, the ankle bone falls forward and out of line with your heel bone. Because of that, the sinus tarsi collapses and the arch falls flat.
Flat feet don’t just cause pain and discomfort in the heel and leg. They throw the entire body out of balance. That means you might find it harder to stand, walk, or run. It also means that exercising is harder, which affects your overall health and leads to weight gain. The additional pressure caused by the misalignment can also lead to:
You may think that your feet are fine because you were not born with flat feet. Many people were not born with it but developed the condition over time. This is called “adult acquired flatfoot” and there are three stages.
In stage I, the posterior tibial tendon around the inside of the ankle is inflamed and swollen. The deformity becomes more visible in stage II but can still be corrected. Pain on the outside of the ankle and being unable to adjust the arch marks stage III. Flat feet are more common in people with rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, and foot/ankle injuries.
Flat Feet RECONSTRUCTION Surgery: Understanding the Procedure
Flat feet surgery can offer help and healing for many people struggling with this condition. Your doctor will inspect your feet and ankles and then suggest a treatment option for your needs. Sometimes called flatfoot reconstruction, this collection of surgical and nonsurgical procedures reduces pain and helps improve your mobility.
Depending on the cause of your flat feet, your doctor may recommend any of the following procedures:
- Rest – Some patients can benefit from rest and immobilization. This accelerates healing and stops the activity that aggravates the foot’s arch.
- Ice – Icing the aggravated foot every 20 minutes can help with swelling, pain, and inflammation. When the inflammation subsides, the arch returns closer to its normal position.
- Medication – Ibuprofen and other anti-inflammatory medications work in conjunction with ice and rest to reduce inflammation and swelling.
- Orthotic Inserts – In some cases, you may just need an orthotic insert in one or both shoes to support your arch and reduce symptoms.
- Orthopedic Shoes – Some patients will benefit from specially crafted shoes, a removable boot, or leg braces that protect the foot while reducing pressure.
- Injections – Steroid injections (cortisone) may reduce pain and swelling.
- Physical Therapy – With the right exercises, stretches, and movements, you can reduce pain and discomfort in the affected foot.
- Achilles Tendon Lengthening – Surgeons will lengthen the Achilles tendon, which also lengthens the calf muscles and prevents flatfoot from returning. Surgeons often perform this in conjunction with other treatments.
- Tendon Cleaning – Surgeons can perform tendon cleaning before the arch completely collapses to remove inflamed tissue.
- Tendon Transfer – Surgeons remove diseased tendons and replace them with healthy tendons from another area of the toot. It can also be combined with tendon cleaning.
- Bone Cutting and Shifting – In severe cases, surgeons may need to rebuild the arch of the foot. They do this by cutting and shifting bones in the heel and midfoot. They may also use a bone graft to fuse bones or lengthen the outside of the foot.
- Fusion – In cases where rheumatoid arthritis causes flatfoot, fusion of the bones is the most common course of action. This realigns the foot and removes arthritis at the same time.
- Triple Arthrodesis – Some patients require the fusion of all three joints in the hindfoot.
- Internal Fixation and Implants – Patients with flat feet related to an injury may benefit from internal fixation or subtalar implants.
Which Is Right for You?
There is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to treating flat feet. An experienced doctor must carefully consider your case, including lifestyle factors and others that influence the development of flat feet.
You will have an initial consultation and then the doctor will discuss treatment choices and what you can expect. In some cases, your doctor may recommend conservative, non-surgical treatment initially and only recommend flat foot reconstruction surgery as a last resort.
Recovering from Flat Feet RECONSTRUCTION Surgery
Your specific recovery process will vary depending on the type of surgery your doctor recommends, as well as other factors. Most patients will require some time in a cast afterward, as well as elevation and rest. Once the cast is removed, you will need to go through physical therapy to restore flexibility and build strength in the foot.
Whether you have dealt with flat feet all your life or have adult-acquired flatfoot, there is hope. You don’t need to deal with pain and inflammation that limits your mobility and affects your health. Experienced orthapaedic surgeons can offer a wide range of treatment options, from conventional treatments to minimally invasive surgeries and full flat foot reconstruction surgery.