Foot Care: Examine Your Child For Flat Feet
Usually a congenital problem, flat feet can be corrected with the help of therapy and orthotic devices in children, but the correction has to start early to be effective. Our feet are designed to hold the weight of the body in a steady way with arches in the middle. However, in some children, these arches fail to develop and the feet remain flat, leading to a flat feet deformity or fallen arches.
It is mostly a problem that exists since birth but it can be identified only when the child grows up to at least a year. Most people do not have any major problem due to a flat foot and can lead fairly normal lives, but they cannot run fast.
Most of the people with flat feet would also experience no pain at all. But some may experience pain in their feet, especially when the connecting ligaments and muscles are strained. In some however, it may increase the risk of injury or foot problems because if you have flat feet, you do not have a foot arch to redistribute your body weight when you walk or run. This load is then passed on unevenly to the ankle, knee, and hip and this may increase the chances of injury in some.
So, it is important to identify the problem of fallen arches in children at an early age. Among infants, the feet usually appear to be flat, more so, because the arches have not been fully developed. Hence it is difficult to identify the problem until the child grows up. The arch develops in early childhood as part of the normal growth process.
Parents should therefore closely monitor this aspect of their child’s growth and keep a watch on whether his/her arches are developing with time.
Wet footprint test is an easy and viable way to find out. The test sees the candidate with wet feet standing on a smooth surface for some time. Once he/she leaves the place, the footprint is examined. The degree of foot flatness is determined by the contact area of his/her sole with the surface. It's an easy way to test whether your child’s arches have developed.
An orthosis is a device that is custom made to modify the structural and functional characteristic of the skeletal system. It can be used to correct the shape of any part of the body, to provide easier movement capability or reduce pain.
In children with flat feet, the use of orthotic devices with shoe modifications should be started as soon as the child starts walking. Orthotic devices for flat feet are customised shoe inserts that reposition the feet while the person is standing or walking. The device provides an arch support and when used in children from the time they start walking can help the arch to develop.
In case when the deformity is severe and children experience pain or other problems associated with it, surgical treatment can be considered if conservative treatment has failed.
Surgical options may include fusing foot or ankle bones together (arthrodesis) or, cutting or changing the shape of the bone (osteotomy).
*Data Courtesy: Dr Rajeev K Sharma, Senior Orthopedic & Joint Replacement Surgeon, Apollo Hospital *Images courtesy: © Thinkstock photos/ Getty Images