When people have babies, they’re always warned about the soft spot on the head that the skull bones haven’t fused enough to adequately cover the brain. But according to New Orleans orthopedic surgeon Dr. Richard Meyer, babies are born with nearly 100 bones that need to close and grow to create bones and joints.
Some of those bones are located in the feet, where they form your foot arch. Most people don’t realize it, but arches don’t develop until around the age of 6, after the bones and cartilage have been strengthening.
Before that, babies and toddlers have a stage of development called flexible flat feet, which is typified by the presence of arches when the child is sitting or standing on their toes, but the arch disappears when they put weight on their feet.
Your New Orleans orthopedic surgeon reports that flexible flat feet are normal, and for the majority of children, they’re only temporary. However, for a smaller portion of the population, their arches never develop leading to a condition called pediatric flat feet.
Some children with flat feet are able to tolerate their condition quite well. These cases – called asymptomatic flat feet – typically won’t require treatment.
However, if a child experiences pain, tenderness or cramping in the feet, legs and knees, or if they have difficulty walking, wearing shoes or participating in activities, they likely have symptomatic flat feet. In these cases, medical advice and treatment should be sought from your New Orleans orthopedic surgeon.
After diagnosis of flat feet, treatment options can vary. Children with asymptomatic flat feet – who experience no pain or difficulty walking – normally only require periodic checkups. Children with symptomatic flat feet, however, typically need intervention and additional care. In some cases, surgery is required to relieve flat feet symptoms and improve foot function. The exact procedure will depend on the child and his or her type of flat feet.
For most cases, non-surgical approaches are best, often starting with activity alteration. This could mean cutting down on time playing sports or avoiding extended periods of standing.
To help children with their daily activities, a wide range of orthotic accessories – such as shoe inserts – are available. Your New Orleans orthopedic surgeon can also recommend styles and brands of shoes that can help ease the symptoms of flat feet. In some cases, custom devices can be made that support the structure of the foot and improve function.
Ongoing support measures can include physical therapy, where children can work with a therapist on stretching exercises that provide relief for flat feet. Certain medications, ranging from ibuprofen to prescriptions, can also reduce pain and inflammation.
In general, pediatric flat feet are a fairly normal, treatable condition. If you have additional questions, or think your child may have flat feet, schedule an appointment today to talk to New Orleans orthopedic surgeon Dr. Richard Meyer.