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.
Often, tarsal tunnel syndrome is misdiagnosed and confused with plantar fasciitis. Tarsal tunnel syndrome is when the tibial nerve which runs through the ankle, is pinched as it passes through the flexor retinaculum, the supportive band that surrounds the ankle joint. The symptoms of tarsal tunnel syndrome are often limited to the ankle but the since the nerve passes through the entire foot it can cause arch pain. Arch pain associated with foot strain is mainly caused by a pronated foot (rolls inward) or a flat foot. These are usually not singular causes of arch pain, but in combination with other factors, arch pain may result.
Intense heel pain, especially first thing in the morning and after a long day. Difficulty walking or standing for long periods without pain. Generally, the sharp pain associated with plantar fasciitis is localized to the heel, but it can spread forward along the arch of the foot and back into the Achilles tendon. While severe cases can result in chronic pain that lasts all day, the most common flare ups occur first thing in the morning, making those first steps out of bed a form of torture, and in the evening after having spent a day on your feet. Overpronation (a foot that naturally turns too far inward), high arches, and flat feet (fallen arches) can all cause similar arch pain. In these cases, however, the pain is more likely to continue throughout the day rather than being worst in the morning.
The medical practitioner will examine how the muscles of your foot function. These tests may involve holding or moving your foot and ankle against resistance; you may also asked to stand, walk, or even run. Pain caused by movements may indicate the cause of the pain. The nerves in the foot will be tested to make sure no injury has occurred there. An x-ray, MRI, or bone scan of the foot and arch may be taken to determine if there are changes in the makeup of the bone.
Non Surgical Treatment
High arches that are flexible do not require any treatment. In cases where there is pain, shoe modifications such as an arch insert or support insole can help to relieve pain during walking. Custom orthotic devices can be given that fit into the shoe and provide stability and cushioning effect. Your doctor may recommend a brace to help keep the foot and ankle stable. In severe cases, surgery is performed to flatten the foot. Any coexisting nerve disorders are also treated.
Surgery is considered only after 12 months of aggressive nonsurgical treatment. Gastrocnemius recession. This is a surgical lengthening of the calf (gastrocnemius) muscles. Because tight calf muscles place increased stress on the plantar fascia, this procedure is useful for patients who still have difficulty flexing their feet, despite a year of calf stretches. In gastrocnemius recession, one of the two muscles that make up the calf is lengthened to increase the motion of the ankle. The procedure can be performed with a traditional, open incision or with a smaller incision and an endoscope, an instrument that contains a small camera. Your doctor will discuss the procedure that best meets your needs. Complication rates for gastrocnemius recession are low, but can include nerve damage. Plantar fascia release. If you have a normal range of ankle motion and continued heel pain, your doctor may recommend a partial release procedure. During surgery, the plantar fascia ligament is partially cut to relieve tension in the tissue. If you have a large bone spur, it will be removed, as well. Although the surgery can be performed endoscopically, it is more difficult than with an open incision. In addition, endoscopy has a higher risk of nerve damage. The most common complications of release surgery include incomplete relief of pain and nerve damage. Most patients have good results from surgery. However, because surgery can result in chronic pain and dissatisfaction, it is recommended only after all nonsurgical measures have been exhausted.
Calf Stretching in Bed. As you may already know, the first few steps out of bed in the morning can be the worst of the day. Those first few steps can be enough to reaggravate your condition putting you into a cycle of inflammation and pain. The best way to help break that cycle is to stretch your calf before taking those first steps in the morning. When the muscles in your calf are tight, they pull on the heel bone, making your plantar fascia very taut and prone to injury. To help loosen those muscles, take a towel or belt and loop it around the ball of your foot. Keeping your leg straight, gently pull towards your body until you feel a stretch in the lower part of your leg. Hold that for 30 seconds and repeat up to 5 times before taking your first step out of bed. Plantar Fascia Stretching. Loosening up the tissues that are irritated probably makes sense to you, but you may not know how to do so. Luckily, there?s a very simple way. All you have to do is pull your toes up with your hand until you feel a stretch along the ball of your foot. You may feel the stretch anywhere from the ball of your foot to your heel. Holding this position for 30 seconds a few times can make a world of difference in your pain levels. Calf Stretching. I know, it probably seems like overkill, but stretching out the muscles in the lower leg is an integral step to recovery. There are two main muscles in the lower leg that attach to the heel, so we?ll work on stretching them both out. Stand against a wall and slide one leg back, pushing the heel down towards the floor (first picture). When you feel a stretch in the lower part of your leg, hold it for 30 seconds. After those 30 seconds are up, bend your knees until a deeper stretch is felt a bit lower in the leg (second photo). Again, hold this stretch for 30 seconds and repeat this until you?ve done it 3 times on each leg. Who doesn?t love a good massage? I suppose you could pay for someone to rub out the tissues in the bottom of your foot, but if you?re looking for a cheaper alternative, look no further than the humble tennis ball. Placing a tennis ball on the ground and gently rolling it under foot for a few minutes can help loosen up your plantar fascia, making it much less likely to become irritated. Put enough pressure on the ball to get a deep massage. You may feel some soreness, but back off if you feel any pain.Tennis Ball Massage While using the tennis ball is great for keeping things loose, sometimes it?s worth doing some icing at the same time for some inflammation control. Freezing a water bottle and rolling it under your foot for 10 minutes at the end of the day can be a very effective way to keep inflammation in check while staying loose. It might not be the most comfortable thing in the world, but ?Brrr? is better than ?Ouch? any day. One thing to keep in mind is that while these tips have been proven to work, they?re not an instant fix. It can take a few weeks of consistency with them before your pain levels begin to change. If you?re not seeing any improvement after making an honest effort, it may be time to look into some different treatment methods with your doctor such as formal PT, orthotics, a weight-loss plan, or others.