The posterior tibial tendon serves as one of the major supporting structures of the foot, helping it to function while walking. Posterior tibial tendon dysfunction (PTTD) is a condition caused by
changes in the tendon, impairing its ability to support the arch. This results in flattening of the foot. PTTD is often called adult acquired flatfoot
because it is the most common type of flatfoot developed during adulthood. Although
this condition typically occurs in only one foot, some people may develop it in both feet. PTTD is usually progressive, which means it will keep getting worse, especially if it isn?t treated
Damage to the posterior tendon from overuse is the most common cause for adult acquired flatfoot. Running, walking, hiking, and climbing stairs are activities that add stress to this tendon, and this
overuse can lead to damage. Obesity, previous ankle surgery or trauma, diabetes (Charcot foot), and rheumatoid arthritis are other common risk factors.
The symptoms of PTTD may include pain, swelling, a flattening of the arch, and an inward rolling of the ankle. As the condition progresses, the symptoms will change. For example, when PTTD initially
develops, there is pain on the inside of the foot and ankle (along the course of the tendon). In addition, the area may be red, warm, and swollen. Later, as the arch begins to flatten, there may
still be pain on the inside of the foot and ankle. But at this point, the foot and toes begin to turn outward and the ankle rolls inward. As PTTD becomes more advanced, the arch flattens even more
and the pain often shifts to the outside of the foot, below the ankle. The tendon has deteriorated considerably and arthritis often develops in the foot. In more severe cases, arthritis may also
develop in the ankle.
Diagnostic testing is often used to diagnose the condition and help determine the stage of the disease. The most common test done in the office setting are weightbearing X-rays of the foot and ankle.
These assess joint alignment and osteoarthritis. If tendon tearing or rupture is suspected, the gold standard test would be MRI. The MRI is used to check the tendon, surrounding ligament structures
and the midfoot and hindfoot joints. An MRI is essential if surgery is being considered.
Non surgical Treatment
Initial treatment is based on the degree of deformity and flexibility at initial presentation. Conservative treatment includes orthotics or ankle foot orthoses (AFO) to support the posterior tibial
tendon (PT) and the longitudinal arch, anti-inflammatories to help reduce pain and inflammation, activity modification which may include immobilization of the foot and physical therapy to help
strengthen and rehabilitate the tendon.
For more chronic flatfoot pain, surgical intervention may be the best option. Barring other serious medical ailments, surgery is a good alternative for patients with a serious problem. There are two
surgical options depending on a person?s physical condition, age and lifestyle. The first type of surgery involves repair of the PTT by transferring of a nearby tendon to help re-establish an arch
and straighten out the foot. After this surgery, patients wear a non-weight bearing support boot for four to six weeks. The other surgery involves fusing of two or three bones in the hind foot below
the ankle. While providing significant pain relief, this option does take away some hind foot side-to-side motion. Following surgery, patients are in a cast for three months. Surgery is an effective
treatment to address adult-acquired flatfoot, but it can sometimes be avoided if foot issues are resolved early. That is why it is so important to seek help right away if you are feeling ankle pain.
But perhaps the best way to keep from becoming flatfooted is to avoid the risk factors altogether. This means keeping your blood pressure, weight and diabetes in check.