Could Flat Feet Be Causing Your Headaches?

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Your feet are your foundation...Your base of support. When your base of support isn't stable, it causes an effect to your posture. This instability can directly affect your ankles, knees, hips, and back. According to research, flat feet can account for regular, severe headaches.  Even migraines! If you have headaches, sore feet, or are having a hard time running, it may be time to come on in!

In fact, expert say that as much as 25% of migraine headaches are caused by issues with posture.  The weakness in the feet causes the muscles in the lower limbs to contract for longer periods of time.  The signals from the overloaded muscles can overwhelm the brain.  This causes the blood vessels within the brain to become inflamed and sufferers are left with a pounding pain from it.

In my Houston, TX podiatry practice, I see this quite often.  People are referred every day with back pain, hip pain, knee pain, and, yes, even headaches that have no other causes than postural issues.  What I look for in these patients are how their feet are managing pressures.  By taking a weight-bearing x-ray, one taken while standing, I am able to look at the bone structure and how the foot manages while bearing weight.  By watching you walk, I'm looking for the height of the arch, the angle the foot bears weight in, and how the heel rolls with each step.

While there is surgery that can correct a severely flat foot, I recommend it rarely because of the very long recovery.  A more conservative approach involves making a custom orthotic.  An orthotic is a custom insole with addresses the cause of the instability.  When properly made with a comprehensive biomechanical exam, an orthotic provides stability and efficiency to the feet and legs.  This will cause the muscles that are working overtime to be able to calm down to a more normal level.  This would quickly solve any postural conditions that created those painful headaches.

If you're ever told that "nothing is wrong" when you're suffering with pain, ask your doctor to watch you walk.  Relief may be just a referral to a podiatrist away.

Why We Prescribe Orthotics 

Once you come in for foot pain (or head pain) we may suggest you get a pair of custom orthotics, as we mentioned above. These devices correct the positioning of your foot, which is likely a large contributor to the initial onset of your pain. Custom orthotics are inserts that slide into your shoes. Unlike over the counter inserts, custom orthotics are designed after we take a cast impression of your foot so they can be highly customized.

When casting your foot, we will hold that foot in the neutral position so that when the cast is complete, dried and removed from your foot, it represents your foot in its own optimal level of function. The foot compensates from one joint to the next for any imbalances or abnormal joint positions, so casting this way is essential. If you have had your feet scanned on a plate or walked across a mat, these methods will gain an image of your foot, but in a position that is representing compensation your foot is already doing – rendering those inserts ineffective and expensive. 

Not only is the cast customized to optimize your biomechanical function, the top shell of your orthotic can also be customized. It can be extended to make room to accommodate your anatomy. The materials can be selected to work best with the type of shoes in which the orthotics will be worn.

We can also help you choose custom padding for your orthotics. For people who lack a natural fat pad in the heel, we can remove some of the orthotic’s shell and fill that void with gel or foam, reducing the hardness you’d feel in the heel of the orthotic. If pain in the front of your foot is a problem, you may want a pad placed just behind the ball of your foot—this will help take some of the load off your forefoot when you walk and stand.  You may also opt for extra arch padding—there are so many choices when you opt for a customized orthotic!

Dr. Andrew Schneider
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Dr. Andrew Schneider is a podiatrist and foot surgeon at Tanglewood Foot Specialists in Houston, TX.
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