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To better understand how the muscles and tissue structures in the feet, ankles, legs and hips are adversely affected by overpronation, imagine a person on the end of a bungee cord jumping off a bridge. If the bungee cord gets the right amount of tension on it as the person nears the ground, then he or she will be saved from smashing into the earth. However, if the bungee cord does not pull tight because it is twisted or has no elasticity, then the person will impact the ground with dire consequences. The muscles, tendons, ligaments, and fascia of the legs and feet are the body’s bungee cords. If these bungee cords work together, they can protect the joints of the feet and ankles from excessive stress, and prevent muscle and tissue damage caused by overpronation. If they do not work properly, a person will be able to see evidence of this in the feet and ankles, particularly in the alignment of the joints.
There are many biomechanical issues that can contribute to excessive pronation, including weak foot intrinsic muscles, limited ankle dorsiflexion mobility and calf flexibility, weak ankle invertor muscles (e.g. posterior tibialis), weak forefoot evertor muscles (peroneus longus), poor hip strength and control, Anterior pelvic tilting, heel InversionIn a person who overpronates, the heel bone goes into an everted position meaning that it turns out away from the midline of the body. The opposite motion of eversion is inversion. Inversion is a motion that needs to be controlled to prevent the foot from excessively pronating.
Because pronation is a twisting of the foot, all of the muscles and tendons which run from the leg and ankle into the foot will be twisted. In over-pronation, resulting laxity of the soft tissue structures of the foot and loosened joints cause the bones of the feet shift. When this occurs, the muscles which attach to these bones must also shift, or twist, in order to attach to these bones. The strongest and most important muscles that attach to our foot bones come from our lower leg. So, as these muscles course down the leg and across the ankle, they must twist to maintain their proper attachments in the foot. Injuries due to poor biomechanics and twisting of these muscles due to over-pronation include: shin splints, Achilles Tendonitis, generalized tendonitis, fatigue, muscle aches and pains, cramps, ankle sprains, and loss of muscular efficiency (reducing walking and running speed and endurance). Foot problems due to over-pronation include: bunions, heel spurs, plantar fasciitis, fallen and painful arches, hammer toes, and calluses.
Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms, medical history, and activities and examine your feet. Your provider may watch you walk or run. Check the motion of your feet when they strike the ground. Look at your athletic shoes to see if they show an abnormal pattern of wear.
Non Surgical Treatment
When you see the doctor, he or she will likely perform a complete examination of your feet and watch you walk. The doctor will need to take x-rays to determine the cause of your flat feet. In some cases, further imaging may be needed, especially if your symptoms are severe and sudden in nature. Once you are properly diagnosed, your doctor will create an appropriate treatment plan. There are several options to correct overpronation, such as orthotics. In many cases, overpronation can be treated with non-surgical methods and over-the-counter orthotics. In severe cases, however, custom-made orthotics may work better. Orthotics provide arch support and therefore prevent collapse of the arch with weight bearing. They are made of materials such as spongy rubber or hard plastic. Your doctor will also want to examine your footwear to ensure they fit properly and offer enough medial support. Extra support and stability can be achieved with footwear that has a firm heel counter. If you are experiencing pain, you should be able to use over-the-counter pain medications such as ibuprofen to relieve symptoms.
Calcaneal “Slide” (Sliding Calcaneal Osteotomy) A wedge is cut into the heel bone (calcaneus) and a fixation device (screws, plate) is used to hold the bone in its new position. This is an aggressive option with a prolonged period of non-weightbearing, long recovery times and many potential complications. However, it can and has provided for successful patient outcomes.
n the growing child there are a number of different ways that bones grow. In the calcaneus (heel bone), growth comes from two separate growth plates. The lesser of the two growth plates is called the apophysis. The apophysis of the calcaneus is located between the back and the bottom of the heel at that spot that hits the ground each time we take a step. The Achilles tendon, which is the most powerful tendons in our body, attaches to the proximal aspect of the apophysis. The plantar fascia attaches to the distal aspect of the apophysis. Both the Achilles tendon and plantar fascia place traction, or pulling on the growth plate and contribute to inflammation of the secondary growth plate called apophysitis. The calcaneal apophysis is very apparent on x-ray and continues to grow until approximately age 12 in girls and age 15 in boys.
Sever?s Disease is thought to be caused by several reasons. Growth spurts. The muscles and tendons become tight due to rapid bone growth. Overuse. Sever?s Disease can also occur in children who are athletically active and overwork his or her muscles. Some physicians are beginning to caution parents about checking their children?s shoes to make sure they fit well and do not pinch or put undue pressure on the child?s feet. Pronation can also bring on Sever?s Disease.
A few signs and symptoms point to Sever?s disease, which may affect one or both heels. These include Pain at the heel or around the Achilles tendon, Heel pain during physical exercise, especially activities that require running or jumping, Worsening of pain after exercise, A tender swelling or bulge on the heel that is sore to touch, Calf muscle stiffness first thing in the morning, Limping, A tendency to tiptoe.
A doctor can usually tell that a child has Sever’s disease based on the symptoms reported. To confirm the diagnosis, the doctor will probably examine the heels and ask about the child’s activity level and participation in sports. The doctor might also use the squeeze test, squeezing the back part of the heel from both sides at the same time to see if doing so causes pain. The doctor might also ask the child to stand on tiptoes to see if that position causes pain. Although imaging tests such as X-rays generally are not that helpful in diagnosing Sever’s disease, some doctors order them to rule out other problems, such as fractures. Sever’s disease cannot be seen on an X-ray.
Non Surgical Treatment
Activity Modification: to decrease the pain, limiting sporting activities is essential. Cutting back on the duration, intensity, and frequency can significantly improve symptoms. Heel cord stretching is important if heel cord tightness is present. Heel cushions/cups or soft orthotics decreases the impact on the calcaneus by distributing and cushioning the weight bearing of the heel. Use of NSAIDS. Ibuprofen (Nuprin, Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve) can decrease pain and secondary swelling. Ice. Placing cold or ice packs onto the painful heel can alleviate pain. Short-leg cast. For recalcitrant symptoms a short-leg cast is occasionally used to force rest the heel.
The surgeon may select one or more of the following options to treat calcaneal apophysitis. Reduce activity. The child needs to reduce or stop any activity that causes pain. Support the heel. Temporary shoe inserts or custom orthotic devices may provide support for the heel. Medications. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, help reduce the pain and inflammation. Physical therapy. Stretching or physical therapy modalities are sometimes used to promote healing of the inflamed issue. Immobilization. In some severe cases of pediatric heel pain, a cast may be used to promote healing while keeping the foot and ankle totally immobile. Often heel pain in children returns after it has been treated because the heel bone is still growing. Recurrence of heel pain may be a sign of calcaneal apophysitis, or it may indicate a different problem. If your child has a repeat bout of heel pain, be sure to make an appointment with your foot and ankle surgeon.