Friday, 11 October 2013

Children with Flat Feet – What are the Treatment Options?

Parents want their children to be perfect in every way. Even the commonest of problems and minor medical conditions are cause for worry. And among these issues is that of less than perfect arches on a child’s feet. It’s not just a matter of appearance. Flat feet can cause discomfort and even pain and also affect athletic abilities. But what actually are flat feet? It is generally taken to mean that the arch that runs under the inner side of the soles of the feet is either insufficient or completely absent. However, there is no accepted definition or standard as to what a flat foot is and what is not.

Do Flat Feet Need Treatment?

The question of treatment for flat feet is equally open to various answers. A minor reduction in the arch may not require any attention but determining that is best left to a podiatrist. In general, the earlier flat feet are treated, the better so that the correction of the arch can be done while the young feet are still supple enough to accept the re-alignment easily. The most common form of treatment is orthotics which are inserts paced in the shoes to provide support under the weak arch and cause it to change into the correct shape. If the orthotics are custom made they can be extremely expensive and once again, a foot specialist is the best person to advice on the right course of action.

But it may be that no corrective action is required.

It Is a Common Problem

Studies show that up to 13% of children have flat feet and the volume is highest among younger children. The fact that the numbers drop as the children age shows that in some cases the conditions corrects itself over time. In fact a degree of flat footedness that comes down with age until it is gone by the time the child is nine years old is quite common.

And not all children with flat feet develop problems or more severe symptoms later on in life. The typically flat footed child’s flat foot is what is known as a “flexible flat foot.” That means that the arch is present when the foot is off the ground but it disappears when the weight is placed on the foot. The thumb rule is that if the child suffers from pain, discomfort or any form of limitation in activity because of the flat feet, treatment should be undertaken. 

The case of children with flat feet who have no symptoms of any kind and also have no limitations in their movement and abilities because of the conditions is more complex. Should the feet be treated in case problems develop later on or should they be left alone and needless treatment be avoided? Here again it is best that a foot specialist takes the call on the course of action to be followed, or if no treatment is needed.

If no treatment is advised, that does not mean that the conditions can be ignored. The child needs to be monitored as he or she ages to see if the condition improves or becomes worse. Signs of an increase in the severity of the problem include changes in the shape of the foot, occurrence of pain or discomfort and changes in the child’s posture. If the use of orthotics is not required, then well-fitting supportive shoes with built in additional arch support is usually enough to bring the problem under control.

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