Degenerative Foot Diseases

Treatment options available for tendinitis and flat feet.

A degenerative foot disease is one in which the tendons or ligaments in the foot wear down or break down over time. Two common degenerative foot diseases our podiatrists treat are tendinitis and adult acquired flatfoot.

Tendinitis

Tendinitis is an inflammation of a tendon -- a band of fibrous tissue connecting muscle to bone -- and it’s often caused by excessive use over time. Tendinitis symptoms can include pain, tenderness, and restricted movement of the muscle attached to the affected tendon.

The most commonly affected tendons of the foot and ankle are the:

  • Achilles tendon: This tendon connects the calf muscles to the heel bone. Achilles tendinitis is the most common foot tendinitis. Symptoms include swelling, tenderness, and stiffness in the affected heel.
  • Posterior tibial tendon: This tendon runs along the inside of the ankle and foot. Symptoms of posterior tibial tendinitis include pain when moving the foot forward to push off the ground or when shifting the heel from side to side.
  • Anterior tibial tendon: This tendon helps control the front of the foot when it meets the ground. Anterior tibial tendinitis symptoms include pain when you go down stairs or when you walk or run on hills.
  • Peroneal tendons: These are the tendons that keep the ankle from rolling (the peroneus brevis is most commonly affected). Peroneal tendinitis can cause pain when you stand or push off the ground.

Treatment for tendinitis

Ice or heat, anti-inflammatory medications, limited activity, and massaging the affected tendons may help relieve tendinitis symptoms over time. Preventive measures for all types of foot tendinitis include proper warm-up and stretching exercises, wearing the right shoes for exercise activities (choosing shoes with good arch and heel support), and varying your exercise route and routine to avoid overuse injury.

Adult acquired flatfoot

Adult acquired flatfoot is a painful deformity that generally gets worse over time. The condition is caused by stretching and tearing of the tendon and ligaments that support the arch of the foot. Symptoms range from irritating to severely painful.

Having high blood pressure or diabetes or being obese also can increase the risk of developing flat feet.

Treatment for flat feet

If flat feet cause pain, a custom molded orthotic (arch preserving insert in the shoe) may bring relief. The podiatrist (foot specialist) also may recommend trying different types of shoes or wearing a cast brace to immobilize the foot.

Severe cases may require surgery to alleviate foot pain and restore the arches. The overall goal of treatment is to eliminate pain, stop progression of the deformity, and improve mobility.

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