The arch of the foot is a very complex structure, consisting of multiple bones and ligaments. Most causes of arch pain are related to the anatomy of the arch and the types of physical activity that you perform. For example, a classic set up for arch pain is people who engage in lots of high impact exercise (such as running) while wearing a type of athletic shoe that does not properly support their type of foot arch. If you notice that the twinges of pain you have are most commonly associated with or immediately after exercise, you might want to visit a good athletic shoe store to make sure you are wearing the right kind of shoe. Another cause of arch pain is plantar fasciitis. The plantar fascia is a tough tissue structure that holds the bottom part of the arch in place. The fascia often becomes inflamed and sore, usually as a result of repetitive motion (for example, very common in those who stand on their feet for work). The pain is often noticeable first thing in the morning and worse with activity. In addition to wearing good arch supports and taking anti-inflammatory medications, stretching exercises are often a part of the treatment. You should see your primary care doctor to determine what is the best treatment for you.
Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome develops when there is compression on the tibial nerve as it passes through the tarsal tunnel on the inner side of the ankle bone (medial malleolus). It can cause pain on bottom of foot as well as pins and needles. Numbness in the heel can often extend down to the big toe and adjacent three toes. In addition, it may also produce hot and cold sensations along the bottom of the foot. Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome is caused by anything which occupies space in the tarsal tunnel including cysts, ganglions, bone spurs, swelling from ankle injuries or tumours. Treatment aims to reduce the foot arch pain and usually consists of rest, strengthening and stretching exercises, compression bandages and steroid injections. If the pain in bottom of foot persists, surgery may be required.
Pain in arch of foot is really the only symptom of this condition. It is unlikely to see any swelling or bruising and instead there will be a deep tender spot near the heel. Occasionally the pain may radiate further down the foot. With this condition, pain will usually be felt first thing in the morning or after periods of sitting. This is because the plantar fascia tightens and shortens slightly when there is no weight on it and by standing on it it suddenly stretches and becomes painful. After a few steps it starts to loosen off and the pain may subside. If this is the same pattern of pain you experience it is quite likely you have plantar fasciits. Pain may also be felt when walking up stairs or standing on tip-toes (anything that stretches the fascia).
In people with flat feet, the instep of the foot comes in contact with the ground when standing. To diagnose the problem, the health care provider will ask you to stand on your toes. If an arch forms,the flat foot is called flexible. You will not need any more tests or treatment. If the arch does not form with toe-standing (called rigid flat feet), or if there is pain, other tests may be needed, including a CT scan to look at the bones in the foot. MRI scan to look at the tendons in the foot. X-ray of the foot.
Non Surgical Treatment
There is considerable debate about the best treatment option for plantar fasciitis. Some authors suggest all of the 'mainstream' methods of treatment don't actually help at all and can actually make the symptoms worse. However, on the whole, there are several of the most commonly cited treatment options for plantar fasciitis and these are generally accepted throughout the medical community. I would recommend giving these options a try if you haven't already. Rest. This is mainly applicable to the sports people as rest is possible treatment. (For those who cannot rest e.g. people who work on their feet - skip to the other treatment options below). Rest until it is not painful. This is made more difficult as people need to use their feet to perform daily activities but certainly stop sporting activities that are likely to be putting the fascia under excessive stress. Perform Self Micro-Massage (you can watch this video by clicking the link or scrolling further down the page as it's embedded on this lens!) This massage technique is used to break down fibrous tissue and also to stimulate blood flow to the area, both of which encourage healing and reduce pain. There is also a potentially soothing effect on nerve endings which will contribute to pain relief. Ice/Cold Therapy. Particularly useful after spending periods on your feet to reduce the inflammation. Wrap some ice or a bag of frozen peas in a towel and hold against the foot for up to 10 minutes. Repeat until symptoms have resolved. Heat Therapy. Heat therapy can be used (not after activity) to improve blood flow to the area to encourage healing. A heat pack of hot water bottle can be used. 10 minutes is ideal. Careful not to burn yourself. A good taping technique. By taping the foot in a certain way you can limit the movement in the foot and prevent the fascia from over-stretching and gives it a chance to rest and heal. Click on the link for more information on taping techniques. Weight Management. If you are over-weight, any weight you can loose will help to ease the burden on your sore feet and plantar fascia. Orthotic devices (often mis-spelled orthodic) are special insoles that can be used to limit over-pronation (discussed earlier) and control foot function. By preventing the arches flattening excessively, the plantar fascia is not over-stretched to the same extent and this should help with the symptoms and encourage healing. Stretching the calf muscles (again, click this link or scroll to the bottom of the page to watch the embedded video) can help to lengthen these muscles and the Achilles tendon - a risk factor for plantar fasciitis. Stretching of the plantar fascia itself is also encouraged, particularly before getting up the morning (night splints can be used for this effect) and after periods of rest. This can be achieved by placing a towel or band under the ball of the foot and gently pulling upwards until a stretch is felt. Hold for about 15-20 seconds then rest briefly. Repeat 2-3 times. As you can see there are many different treatment options available. Try incorporating some of these in to your daily routine and see what works for you. Regardless of the method the main aim is to prevent the fascia from over-stretching. Medical professionals such as a Podiatrist may decide to make custom orthotics or try ultra-sound therapy. It is likely that anti-inflammatory medications will also be recommended. If you have tried the treatment options and your symptoms persist I'd recommend going to see a medical professional for further advice.
If you have pain that has not been responsive to other treatments, there is a new non-surgical treatment that was recently approved by the FDA. ESWT (extracorporeal shockwave therapy) uses strong electrohydraulic acoustic (sound) energy that triggers the body?s natural repair mechanism. This treatment method is safe, effective and requires a very short recovery period compared to older surgical techniques.
Arch pain occurs when the plantar fascia becomes worn down due to constant strain or excessive exercising. This may be caused by increasing your running or hiking mileage too fast, wearing inadequate footwear, lack of stretching, running on steep hills, standing on your feet for too long and abnormal anatomy such as flat foot. Stretching is an important exercise that should not be overlooked because the tightness or lack of tightness of the joints in the foot can also cause pain in the arch.
Strengthening exercises. Below are two simple strength exercises to help condition the muscles, tendons and joints around the foot and ankle. Plantar Rolling. Place a small tin can or tennis ball under the arch of the affected foot. Slowly move the foot back and forth allowing the tin can or tennis ball to roll around under the arch. This activity will help to stretch, strengthen and massage the affected area. Toe Walking. Stand upright in bare feet and rise up onto the toes and front of the foot. Balance in this position and walk forward in slow, small steps. Maintain an upright, balanced posture, staying as high as possible with each step. Complete three sets of the exercise, with a short break in between sets, for a total of 20 meters.