Flat feet, medically known as pes planus, is a common condition where the arches of the foot collapse, causing the entire sole to touch the ground. While it can affect people of all ages, it is particularly prevalent among children. As parents, educators, and healthcare professionals, understanding the incidences of flat foot in kids and learning about effective management and pioneering treatment options like stenting can significantly improve the quality of life for affected children.
Flat foot is a natural occurrence in infants and toddlers, as their arches are still developing. However, most children outgrow this condition by the age of six as their foot structures strengthen. Nonetheless, some children may continue to experience flat foot beyond this age, leading to potential discomfort and mobility issues.
Various factors contribute to flat feet in children, including genetics, ligament laxity, excessive weight-bearing activities, or underlying medical conditions like joint hypermobility syndrome or muscular dystrophy. Identifying and addressing flat foot early on is crucial to prevent long-term complications.
Tips to Manage Flat Foot in Kids
- Regular Foot Exercises - Engaging in foot-strengthening exercises, such as toe curls, toe spreads, and towel scrunches, can help improve muscle tone and support the arches.
- Proper Footwear - Ensure your child wears well-fitting, supportive shoes with arch support to alleviate discomfort and promote healthy foot development.
- Orthotic Inserts - Custom-made orthotic shoe inserts can provide additional support and cushioning to the arches, reducing pain and improving alignment.
- Weight Management - Encourage a healthy lifestyle with a balanced diet and regular exercise to manage excess weight, which can exacerbate flat foot symptoms.
- Rest and Recovery - Allow adequate rest between physical activities to avoid overloading the foot structures.
Stenting: Paving the Way for Advanced Treatment
While non-surgical methods are effective for most children with flat foot, some cases may require more advanced interventions. One pioneering treatment option that shows promise in correcting flat foot is stenting.
Stenting is a minimally invasive procedure that involves inserting a small, flexible implant into the foot to provide structural support to the arch. This approach aims to restore the foot's natural shape, alleviate pain, and improve overall function.
The Advantages of Stenting
Minimally Invasive - Stenting is performed through a small incision, minimizing tissue damage and reducing recovery time compared to traditional surgical interventions.
- Customization - The stent is tailored to fit each child's foot anatomy, ensuring optimal support and comfort.
- Reversibility - Stents can be removed or replaced if necessary, providing a dynamic treatment option as a child's foot continues to grow and develop.
- Speedy Recovery - Stenting typically allows for a quicker return to normal activities compared to traditional surgery.
Flat foot is a common concern among children that requires attention and appropriate management to ensure optimal development and well-being. By staying vigilant for signs of flat foot, practicing preventive measures, and exploring innovative treatments like stenting, we can support children in walking towards a healthier and more active future. As always, consulting a qualified healthcare professional is essential to determine the best course of action for each child's specific needs.
(The Author is Director, Foot & Ankle Specialist & Orthopedic Surgeon, Mumbai Knee Foot & Ankle Clinic)