Diseases & Conditions

Arch Pain


Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors

Arch pain is caused by an inflammation of the plantar arch, or fascia. The condition is also called plantar fasciitis. The plantar arch is a thick membrane that covers and supports the muscles of the sole of the foot.

What is going on in the body?

The plantar arch starts at the heel bone and runs to the base of the toes. Arch pain occurs when this membrane becomes worn down due to constant strain. This causes pain in the arch of the foot. A person will often feel pain in the heel as well.

What are the causes and risks of the condition?

The causes and risk of arch pain include:

  • problems with physical training. This can include rapidly increasing mileage when running, running on steep hills, or wearing improper footwear.
  • abnormal anatomy and position and of the foot
  • certain types of arthritis
  • obesity

  • Symptoms & Signs

    What are the signs and symptoms of the condition?

    Signs and symptoms of arch pain include:

  • burning pain on the sole of the foot. This pain is worse after physical activity or when a person gets up in the morning.
  • tenderness when pressure is applied to the sole of the foot or the heel
  • increased pain when standing on tiptoe

  • Diagnosis & Tests

    How is the condition diagnosed?

    The healthcare provider will make a diagnosis based on the person's symptoms. The individual will feel tenderness on the inner part of the heel when the provider is examining the area. An X-ray may show a spur or abnormal bone growth on the heel.


    Prevention & Expectations

    What can be done to prevent the condition?

    There are several sports safety measures that can help prevent arch pain. It is important to wear well-fitting footwear appropriate for the type of physical activity he or she is doing. People with this condition may be instructed to walk or run with their toes turned in an inward position. This helps to distribute the weight to the outer side of the foot instead of on the big toe area.

    What are the long-term effects of the condition?

    People with arch pain may continue to have flare-ups of pain.

    What are the risks to others?

    There are no risks to others as this condition is not contagious.


    Treatment & Monitoring

    What are the treatments for the condition?

    Treatment of arch pain includes rest, ice, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications,or NSAIDs. Wearing shoes that fit properly is important. Also, padded heel cups or other devices inserted into the shoe may be needed. In some cases stretching exercises or physical therapy may be helpful. A injection of corticosteroids to the area may help reduce pain and inflammation.

    What are the side effects of the treatments?

    NSAIDs can cause stomach upset and allergic reactions. Repeated injections of corticosteroids can cause damage to the tissues.

    What happens after treatment for the condition?

    The person should reduce physical activity until symptoms have improved. When symptoms are gone, the individual can start slowly to return to normal activities.

    How is the condition monitored?

    A person with this condition can monitor his or her symptoms at home.


    Attribution

    Author:Gail Hendrickson, RN, BS
    Date Written:
    Editor:Slon, Stephanie, BA
    Edit Date:06/05/00
    Reviewer:Adam Brochert, MD
    Date Reviewed:05/02/01

    Sources

    Charles E. Saunders, Mary T. Ho (eds): In Current Emergency Diagnosis and Treatment. Fourth edition, 1992.