By far the most common question from parents bringing their kids to the office is, “Is it normal for my child to have flat feet?”
Prior to the age of 6 or 7, children naturally have flat feet because their gait pattern (the way they walk) has not fully developed into a normal adult gait. Around 6 or 7 years old, children begin to walk in a similar manner as adults strengthening the muscles, tendons and ligaments in the foot forming the arch.
The development of flat feet or “fallen arches” can usually be categorized as either a bone problem, acquired from biomechanical problems, or systemic diseases. At birth, some infants are born with flat feet because of the way the foot bones developed during pregnancy. It may not initially cause pain or discomfort because your child is not ambulating; however, later on when your child begins walking, it could affect the development of a normal gait pattern. Flat feet can also be acquired from the way your child is walking. A tight Achilles tendon, walking “bow-legged” or “pigeon-toed” for an extended period of time are just a few examples of causative factors that can inhibit the formation of your child’s arches. Other causes for flat foot that are rarely seen include systemic diseases such as Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis and Ehler Danlos syndrome (increased flexibility to all joints in the body).
When a parent comes to the office and is concerned about his or her child having fallen arches, I try to obtain as much detail about the problems from not only the child but the parent as well. Some people will simply say, “They’re experiencing growing pains.” But if your child’s “growing pains” are occurring on a daily basis, then further evaluation should be considered. Usually, a child will give me very simple responses when I ask about his or her feet such as “my feet hurt when I play,” “when they hurt I can’t keep up with the rest of my friends,” “the bottom of my feet hurt all day.” Whereas parents usually tell me about observations they’ve noticed such as “my child wants me to hold them all the time because of his feet being tired,” “she constantly limps after we’ve been playing or after PE,” and “my child seems to fall a lot and appears clumsy at times.” These are all signs and symptoms that a child has a symptomatic flat foot that needs to be addressed by a podiatrist.
The doctors at Advanced Podiatry perform a full clinical evaluation paying special attention to the range of motion in the foot and ankle joints, observing the child walk, performing certain activities, and use x-rays (if clinically indicated) to evaluate the foot bones. A detailed physical examination not only gives the doctor a better understanding of how the flat foot developed but also how to treat it.
Our goal is not only to reduce pain associated with daily and athletic activities, but we also want to give your child better stability and decrease further compensatory changes to his or her gait.
Treatment usually begins with educating the parent and child on proper stretching techniques to stretch the Achilles tendon, plantar fascia and toes. Stretching, when performed on a routine basis (once to twice daily), can significantly reduce fallen arches pain. Physical therapy along with arch pads and orthotics are also great treatment options that can relieve pressure off the ball of the foot and provide stability for balance. Usually our doctors start with a simple foundation treatment plan to see if pain is reduced with stretching, use of an arch pad, and discussion of proper shoes for your child. If the initial treatment does not fully or partially reduce your child’s pain, then more advanced treatment options such as orthotics and physical therapy are added to this foundation treatment.
At Advanced Podiatry, our goal is to have kids with healthy, happy feet! If your child is suffering from any of the problems discussed above, please call Advanced Podiatry today at (813) 875-0555 for an evaluation. Your child’s “growing pains” are always taken seriously and thoroughly evaluated for an accurate diagnosis in our office!
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