Arch pain is the term used to describe symptoms that occur under the arch of the foot. When patients experience arch pain, they often have inflammation of the soft tissues in the midfoot. The arch of the foot is formed by a tight band of tissue that connects the heel bone to the toes, called the plantar fascia.
This band of tissue is important for proper foot mechanics and transferring weight from the heel to the toes. When the arch tissue is irritated and inflamed, even simple movements can be very painful.
The most common cause of arch pain is plantar fasciitis.Plantar fasciitis is the name that describes inflammation of the band of fibrous tissue that connects the heel and toes.
Symptoms of plantar fasciitis include early morning pain and pain when walking or standing for long periods of time. Early morning arch pain is due to the plantar fascia becoming contracted and tight as you sleep through the night.
When I wake up in the morning and walk, my fascia is still very tight and easily inflamed when I stretch. The plantar fascia can become inflamed and painful when you walk or stand for long periods of time.
Treatment of plantar fasciitis is best accomplished with some simple stretches, anti-inflammatory medications, and shoe inserts.
Plantar Fasciitis: An Overview & More
The bones of the midfoot (including the navicular, cuboid, and cuneiform) and metatarsal bones can all be damaged by overuse. When this happens, a stress fracture can cause damage to the bone.
Stress fractures occur not as a result of a single injury, but as a result of repeated overuse, which eventually leads to the formation of cracks in the bone.
Stress fractures often cause pain that worsens with increased activity. Unlike plantar fasciitis, which can be relieved with some activity, pain associated with a stress fracture usually worsens with increasing activity levels.
When a stress fracture occurs, the bones need to rest. In some cases, walking boots can be effective in reducing stress, while in other cases all weight must be taken off the bones that require crutches.
foot stress fracture
Each foot has 26 bones, all connected by an intricate web of ligaments. These ligaments can be injured by twisting or landing while walking or running.
Ligament injuries usually occur immediately after unusual foot movement and cause pain. Swelling may also occur.
Most ligament sprains improve with rest. Sometimes immobilizing the foot helps with treatment. In some rare cases, surgery may be required. One such ligament injury is called a midfoot Lisfranc sprain.
Inflammation of the tendons that run along the foot can also cause arch pain.The two most commonly injured tendons that cause arch pain are the posterior tibial and peroneal tendons.
These tendons start in the leg, pass behind the ankle, and then to the bottom of the foot. Both tendons are important for controlling the movement of the foot and ankle.
Tendonitis: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment
When to see a healthcare provider
Most of the time, arch pain is not a serious medical problem, but sometimes it needs to be evaluated by a medical professional. Some signs that you should see a healthcare provider include:
- Limbs cannot bear the weight
- Worsening symptoms that do not respond to simple treatment
- Signs of infection (fever, chills, redness around the arch of the foot)
Arch pain can usually be diagnosed by a careful examination of the foot. Assessing the alignment of the foot, structures, and ligamentous supports can all be done with a physical exam.
If there are questions about the structure or stability of the foot, special tests may be performed for further evaluation. X-rays can provide a useful assessment of the alignment of the bones in the foot. Further evaluation may require tests including computed tomography (CT) scans and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
treatment and prevention
Treatment of arch pain usually involves reducing pressure on the irritated area of the bottom of the foot and working to control swelling and inflammation. Some simple steps you can start with include:
- Rest: Resting the affected limb is essential to reduce inflammation within the arch of the foot. This may require a change in activity or even the use of crutches.
- Ice: Applying ice to the affected area is an effective way to control inflammation and reduce pain. Many people find ice massage to be an effective way to cool the area.
- Anti-inflammatory drugs: NSAIDs are effective drugs for relieving discomfort associated with inflammation. Be sure to consult your healthcare provider before starting any new medicines.
- Footwear modifications: Changes in footwear with more arch support, better cushioning, or other changes often help. Wearing supportive shoes is essential when dealing with arch pain.
It’s also important to make sure they don’t return immediately after treatment is complete, once the symptoms of arch pain are effectively controlled. Making sure the right shoes have good support can be a useful step.
In addition, activities should be gradually resumed in the early stages after the onset of arch pain.
Arch pain is a common complaint that usually arises from one of several common conditions. Fortunately, most people with arch pain can effectively relieve their symptoms by following a few simple steps.
If none of these work, seeing your healthcare provider can help make sure there’s no more serious problem causing your symptoms. Once people experience arch pain, steps should be taken to prevent the problem from recurring.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can Stretching Relieve Arch Pain?
Yes. Stretching is especially helpful if the pain is due to tightness in the tissue that connects the heel bone to the toes (plantar fasciitis). Actions targeting this area include rolling the toes and heels toward the center of the foot and rolling the arch onto the ball. Stretching exercises that target the Achilles tendon can also provide relief.
Can flat feet cause arch pain?
In some cases, yes. While most people with flat feet have no symptoms, you may experience pain and problems with standing or weight bearing. The pain is usually in the middle of the foot, but tightness can also cause pain in the arch of the foot.
Why do my arches hurt when I walk?
A number of factors can cause this type of pain, including damage to bones or ligaments or inflammation of tendons. These can be caused by exercise or overuse. Unusually high arches (high arched feet) can also cause pain when walking.