According to a May 6, 2010 article written in the UK, 1 in 4 headaches are caused by…you guessed it – flat feet! According to the study, flat feet cause poor posture which over works the muscles in the body, particularly in the back, leading to headaches. While I never really thought of it in this way, there is probably a lot of truth to this statement when you think about the role of biomechanics or foot function, and all of the problems we podiatrists see which are caused by improper biomechanics.
Since there are varying degrees of flat feet, not everyone with flat feet suffers from pain. Some of the most common conditions I see in people with flat feet are plantar fasciitis and posterior tibial tendon dysfunction (PTTD), either separately or together.
Plantar fasciitis is a condition where the ligament on the bottom of the foot, the plantar fascia, is too tight and tears away from the heel bone or calcaneus. In doing so, it causes swelling and pain which is usually worse first thing in the morning or after sitting for a while and then attempting to get up.
PTTD is a condition in which the tendon on the inside part of the ankle swells and becomes weak and painful, especially in the arch area. This tendon is particularly painful while walking and at the end of the day.
In my practice, both conditions are treated with rest, anti inflammatory, physical therapy and orthotics with less than 1% needing surgical intervention or injections. Unfortunately, I see many patients that have had their symptoms alleviated before only to see them return because once their pain went away, no one addressed their foot structure and biomechanics. This is like changing the tires but neglecting to correct the alignment. If the biomechanics are not addressed, patients are almost guaranteed to experience similar pain sometime in the future. Therefore, I always emphasize to my patients that once their pain is gone it is imperative that they get scanned for orthotics to correct the improper biomechanics that caused their condition in the first place. Otherwise, they will be seeing me again, or worse yet, they may see some other doctor who may make the determination that non surgical care failed and decide that they need surgery!!