A joint is formed at any point two bones meet. Your lower limbs contain slightly more than one-fourth of all the bones in your entire body. As such, each of your feet (and their respective ankles) have 33 different joints – which enables movement so you can walk and perform other physical activities.
Foot and ankle joints are very important for your independence and mobility. Of course, one of the potential health problems joints can develop is arthritis.
We know stiff, painful joints are frustrating and take away from your quality of life. Fortunately, there are arthritis treatment options, and Sunshein Podiatry Associates can help you find the relief you are seeking.
Before we delve into symptoms and treatment options, it is important to discuss the various types of arthritis that could affect your feet.
We realize it might seem odd that we mention “various types of arthritis.” There is a common misconception this is a single condition, but there are actually more than 100 different variations. Not all these types are as equally common. Further, some develop with greater frequency in the lower limbs.
Types of arthritis in feet and ankles include:
- Osteoarthritis. When we noted the misconception about arthritis being only a single condition, this particular variety is the reason behind that. Osteoarthritis is simply the most common of the various arthritic conditions. As such, people generally associate this “wear and tear” condition with arthritis as a whole.
- Gout. This arthritic condition can develop anywhere in the body, but tends to most commonly form in the joint at the base of the big toe. Gout is an interesting form of arthritis, since it is caused by a natural byproduct occurring when the body breaks down food. Uric acid is normal, but problems develop when the body either produces too much or cannot filter it out properly. When this happens, the uric acid builds up over time, settles into joints, and crystallizes. The sharp edges of the uric acid crystals cause pain in the soft tissue around affected joints.
- Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). Whereas osteoarthritis often happens over time and due to natural causes, rheumatoid arthritis is caused by an autoimmune disorder wherein the body initiates attacks against the protective lining found in joints. Over time, the disease breaks down the lining, which leads to stiff, painful joints.
- Post-traumatic Arthritis. After a fracture or dislocation in a joint, this form of arthritis may develop. It can take some time, years even, before symptoms develop, but they are similar to the ones seen with osteoarthritis.
Foot and Ankle Arthritis Symptoms
Naturally, specific symptoms exhibited may differ depending upon the form of arthritis. In addition, symptom severity can vary based on an array of additional factors.
Arthritis literally means “joint inflammation” based on its roots of “arthron” (joint) and “itis” (inflammation). Accordingly, a key symptom for any form of arthritis is swelling in joints.
Your specific arthritic condition will dictate which other symptoms are present, but there may also be decreased range of motion, redness, and either sharp or dull pain.
In the case of gout, the symptoms usually arrive in the form of periodic “attacks” or “gout flares.” It is possible for you to experience a painful gout attack and then not have another one until months later.
When we create an arthritis treatment plan, the natural starting point is to identify the condition and assess its severity. Depending on our findings, we may create a treatment plan using:
- Exercise or physical therapy. It might not seem that exercise would be beneficial when joints are stiff and pained, but physical activity can lead to improved flexibility, range of motion, and muscle strength. Stronger muscles are better equipped to support joints, which can relieve pain and stiffness.
- Medication. Of course, the specific mediations we recommend or prescribe will depend on not only the condition at hand, but also the patient being treated. We will take all factors into consideration and possibly use analgesics—medications that treat pain, but not inflammation—or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to relieve symptoms. In some cases, we may perform corticosteroid injections to provide relief.
- Dietary choices. Some people are not aware gout is an arthritic condition. Further, there are many who do not realize it is caused by a byproduct of food breakdown (uric acid). Eating healthier meals is advised, we may recommend a diet based on veggies, fresh fruit, whole grains, legumes, low-fat dairy products, and even limited amounts of lean meats.
A Little More About Exercise and Arthritis
If arthritis has held you back from being active, you will want to start out your arthritis exercise program slowly and gradually build up the duration and intensity of your workout sessions. As you do this, it is essential that you stay aware and listen to your body. If you have a flare-up, rest 2 to 3 days before resuming activity. There is no need to unnecessarily push through pain, so take the time to recover.
Exercise with arthritis might seem like a daunting task, but even a moderate level of activity is proven to ease your pain, increase joint mobility, and help you maintain a healthy weight. There are various workouts that can be beneficial, including range-of-motion, strengthening, and aerobic exercises. The key is simply to move because any movement can help your condition.
Need help determining which physical activities are best for arthritic foot and ankle joints? Contact Sunshein Podiatry Associates and we will be happy to help.
Our treatment plan for your arthritis will start with conservative options. We may need to recommend surgery, though, if nonsurgical care isn’t effective or your pain is causing severe disability. If you maintain a healthy weight and exercise on a regular basis—but still find joint pain to be debilitating—it might be time for you to consider arthritis surgery.
Our recommendation will depend on the location and type of arthritis, and the impact it has on your joints. In some cases, you may benefit from more than one procedure.
Types of arthritis surgery we perform include:
- Arthrodesis (fusion). Arthrodesis is a procedure where we fuse the bones of the joint completely together, thereby making one continuous bone out of two or more bones. The goal of this procedure is to reduce pain by eliminating any possible motion in the arthritic joint.
- Arthroscopic debridement. This surgery is often helpful in early stages of arthritis. Debridement (cleansing) is a procedure we use to remove loose cartilage, inflamed synovial tissue, and bone spurs from around the arthritic joint.
- Total ankle replacement (arthroplasty). In a total ankle replacement, we remove the damaged bone and cartilage, and then position new plastic or metal joint surfaces to restore the function of the affected joint.
There are pros and cons of each respective type of surgical procedure we can use to treat arthritis, and we will carefully review these with you beforehand. It’s important to us that you are educated on surgery and able to make an informed decision. If you ever have any questions regarding your planned procedure, simply let us know and we will be glad to answer them for you.
Expert Foot and Ankle Arthritis Care at Sunshein Podiatry Associates
No matter which of the various arthritic conditions is affecting your foot and ankle health, our team at Sunshein Podiatry Associates can help you find the relief you need.
We are skilled and experienced at treating arthritis in the foot and ankle joints, so give us a call at (937) 435-7477 and request your appointment with our Centerville office today. If you’d prefer, you can take a moment right now to fill out our online form to contact us.