Posterior tibial tendon insufficiency
(also called posterior tibial tendon dysfunction or adult acquired flatfoot) has been named
literally after failure of the posterior tibial tendon. However, the condition is caused not only by the progressive failure of the posterior tibial tendon; it is also failure of associated ligaments
and joints on the inner side of the ankle and foot. This results in collapse of the arch of the foot, along with the deformity which most often becomes the debilitating problem in its later stages.
While at the beginning the common symptom is pain over the tendon in the inner part of the hindfoot and midfoot, later on it is the deformity that can threaten a person's ability to walk. Just as the
tendon degenerates and loses its function, other soft tissue on the same inner side of the foot - namely the ligaments - degenerate and fail. Ligaments are responsible for holding bones in place, and
when they fail, bones shift to places where they shouldn?t; deformity is the result. The deformity causes malalignment, leading to more stress and failure of the ligaments.
Adult flatfoot typically occurs very gradually. If often develops in an obese person who already has somewhat flat feet. As the person ages, the tendons and ligaments that support the foot begin to
lose their strength and elasticity.
As different types of flatfoot have different causes, the associated symptoms can be different for different people. Some generalized symptoms are listed. Pain along the course of the posterior
tibial tendon which lies on the inside of the foot and ankle. This can be associated with swelling on the inside of the ankle. Pain that is worse with activity. High intensity or impact activities,
such as running and jumping, can be very difficult. Some patients can have difficulty walking or even standing for long periods of time and may experience pain at the inside of the ankle and in the
arch of the foot. Feeling like one is ?dragging their foot.? When the foot collapses, the heel bone may shift position and put pressure on the outside ankle bone (fibula). This can cause pain in the
bones and tendons in the outside of the ankle joint. Patients with an old injury or arthritis in the middle of the foot can have painful, bony bumps on the top and inside of the foot. These make shoe
wear very difficult. Sometimes, the bony spurs are so large that they pinch the nerves which can result in numbness and tingling on the top of the foot and into the toes. Diabetic patients may not
experience pain if they have damage to their nerves. They may only notice swelling or a large bump on the bottom of the foot. The large bump can cause skin problems and an ulcer (a sore that does not
heal) may develop if proper diabetic shoe wear is not used.
Observation by a skilled foot clinician and a hands-on evaluation of the foot and ankle is the most accurate diagnostic technique. Your Dallas foot doctor may have you do a walking examination (the
most reliable way to check for the deformity). During walking, the affected foot appears more pronated and deformed. Your podiatrist may do muscle testing to look for strength deficiencies. During a
single foot raise test, the foot doctor will ask you to rise up on the tip of your toes while keeping your unaffected foot off the ground. If your posterior tendon has been attenuated or ruptured,
you will be unable to lift your heel off the floor. In less severe cases, it is possible to rise onto your toes, but your heel will not invert normally. X-rays are not always helpful as a diagnostic
tool for Adult Flatfoot because both feet will generally demonstrate a deformity. MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) may show tendon injury and inflammation, but can?t always be relied on for a
complete diagnosis. In most cases, a MRI is not necessary to diagnose a posterior tibial tendon injury. An ultrasound may also be used to confirm the deformity, but is usually not required for an
Non surgical Treatment
Conservative (nonoperative) care is advised at first. A simple modification to your shoe may be all that???s needed. Sometimes purchasing shoes with a good arch support is sufficient. For other
patients, an off-the-shelf (prefabricated) shoe insert works well. The orthotic is designed specifically to position your foot in good alignment. Like the shoe insert, the orthotic fits inside the
shoe. These work well for mild deformity or symptoms. Over-the-counter pain relievers or antiinflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen may be helpful. If symptoms are very severe, a removable boot or cast
may be used to rest, support, and stabilize the foot and ankle while still allowing function. Patients with longer duration of symptoms or greater deformity may need a customized brace. The brace
provides support and limits ankle motion. After several months, the brace is replaced with a foot orthotic. A physical therapy program of exercise to stretch and strengthen the foot and leg muscles
is important. The therapist will also show you how to improve motor control and proprioception (joint sense of position). These added features help prevent and reduce injuries.
If surgery is necessary, a number of different procedures may be considered. The specifics of the planned surgery depend upon the stage of the disorder and the patient?s specific goals. Procedures
may include ligament and muscle lengthening, removal of the inflamed tendon lining, tendon transfers, cutting and realigning bones, placement of implants to realign the foot and joint fusions. In
general, early stage disease may be treated with tendon and ligament (soft-tissue) procedures with the addition of osteotomies to realign the foot. Later stage disease with either a rigidly fixed
deformity or with arthritis is often treated with fusion procedures. If you are considering surgery, your doctor will speak with about the specifics of the planned procedure.