There are some things that gain value as they age. Antique dealers are always on the lookout for pieces that have a certain “wear and tear” look that will bring a high price tag. Our feet on the other hand, don’t always fair as well when they have experienced a lot of wear and tear. Cumulative stress and impact can cause your foot structure to weaken and become prone to injury, especially when you have a flat foot. This is the case with a condition called posterior tibial tendon dysfunction.
When we have foot pain, it isn’t always easy to pinpoint the source because we can’t visualize the structure of all the bones, muscles, and tendons on the inside. The posterior tibial tendon plays an important supportive role within the structure of the foot. It attaches to your calf muscle and then comes down along the inside of your ankle, connecting to the bones inside your foot at the other side. This tendon’s main function is to hold up your arch and support your foot during each and every movement. Every step, run, walk, or jump is made possible with the support from this crucial tendon.
While it is designed to perform such an important role, it is vulnerable to stress and injury. A tear during a traumatic injury or stress from overuse can injure the tissues within the tendon. This kind of injury is referred to as posterior tibial tendon dysfunction (PTTD).
A really hard fall during a sports game or exposure to a repetitive motion, such as the impact on feet during soccer, tennis, football or basketball, can cause an injury. Flat foot and flat feet in adults can exacerbate this condition. The tendon can experience small tears and become inflamed. If the inflammation is allowed to continue and worsen over time, it will weaken further and could rupture completely.
Just as an old bridge would become unsafe as the structure was compromised, your feet can experience the same. If you have PTTD and the tendon continues to weaken, it simply won’t be able hold up your arch. In this situation, the arch can fall or collapse, which is referred to as adult-acquired flat foot. You may experience pain and tenderness behind the inside of the ankle.
Over time, in addition to the flattening of the foot, you may also notice a misalignment of the heel so that it no longer aligns underneath the rest of the leg. A tightening of the heel cord, arthritis, and possible deformity of the ankle joint may also occur. You may feel the discomfort move from the inside to the outside of the ankle as well. Flat foot can also contribute to problems with the plantar fascia, which is the tendon that runs along the length of your arch.
Treatment will vary depending on the degree of your symptoms. Generally, we would use a combination of rest, immobilization, orthotics, braces, and physical therapy to start. The goal is to keep swelling and inflammation under control and limit the stress on the tendon while it heals.
Avoidance of activities that stress the tendon will be necessary. Once the tendon heals and you resume activity, physical therapy will further strengthen the injured tendon and help restore flexibility. Surgery may be necessary if the tendon is torn or does not respond to these conservative treatment methods.
Your posterior tibial tendon is vital for normal walking. When it is injured in any way, you risk losing independence and mobility. Keep your foot health a top priority and address any pain or problems quickly. Even minor symptoms could progress into chronic problems, so don’t ignore your foot pain.
We can provide the expert care you need to stay active and healthy. Contact Dallas Podiatry Works to make an appointment by calling Dr. Joel W. Brook and David R. Northcutt in Dallas, TX, at (972) 566-7474 or in Plano, TX, at (972) 943-3323.