Arthritis comes in many forms and is generally defined as the inflammation of 1 or more of your joints.
Your feet and ankles contain weight-bearing joints. This means your body weight places force on those joints during normal day to day movement.
Arthritis is a degenerative joint disease, meaning there is no cure and it gets worse as the disease progresses. Treatment of symptoms and management of arthritis helps to alleviate pain and prevent arthritis from getting worse.
Before we dive into the tips of dealing with arthritis in feet and ankles, you need to know how it affects your joints.
As we said above, the foot and the ankle joint are both weight-bearing parts of the body. Standing, walking and running inflicts increasing degrees of force through those joints.
There are 3 bones in the ankle joint and 28 bones in the foot, meaning a lot of joints for potential inflammation.
Bones that form joints are ended with cartilage. Cartilage is a smooth tissue that lubricates the end of the bones to prevent friction during movement when one bone rubs up against the other.
Ligaments are an important bone to bone connective tissue. They support the ankle and foot along with tendons and muscles.
Types of Arthritis in Feet and Ankles
There are 3 types of arthritis that generally affect the foot and ankle area. These are rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and posttraumatic arthritis.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease where your body’s immune system attacks its own joints and wears them away.
The damage to the cartilage in the affected joints leaves bone rubbing on bone and causing severe pain and inflammation in that joint. The disease follows a symmetrical pattern where the same joints on both sides of the body are usually affected.
Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis and occurs due to normal wear and tear on your joints. Many elderly people will suffer for osteoarthritis due to their body being old and joints enduring countless activities over their lifetime.
The same principle applies where the cartilage is gradually worn away and leaves the joint moving bone on bone and causing pain.
It can also develop prematurely if a joint is overused and wears out before it is supposed to. Being obese strains your joints and can lead to the development of osteoarthritis at a younger age.
This type of arthritis can develop after an injury to the area. This is common among people who play sports, especially wrestling and boxing. Dislocations and fractures commonly lead to arthritis in that joint. It can develop years after the injury occurred.
Now you know what arthritis is, how it occurs and why it causes pain, lets read the 8 tips for dealing with arthritis in feet and ankles.
#1 See a Doctor
This may sound obvious, but many people don’t see a doctor until the pain they feel is unbearable and they can’t walk on the joint. Leaving your arthritis this long will lead to irreversible damage and limited options for treatment and management of the condition.
Seeing your doctor as soon as you are able to will ensure you give yourself enough time to prevent further damage and degeneration of the joint.
Doing daily stretches of your feet and Achilles tendon in your ankle will ensure your soft tissue and muscle surrounding the arthritic joints are in tip-top condition. The connective tissue and musculature need to be toned, stretched and supportive of the moving joints. This will keep the joints in the correct positions and avoid further injury.
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Toe wiggling and moving your feet up, down and in circles can help too. Think about those in-flight seat exercises to avoid DVT.
#3 Supportive Footwear
Unsupportive shoes increase the risk of injury to the foot and ankle. If you already have arthritis in your foot and ankle, it is imperative that you wear supportive footwear.
Supportive footwear should be the correct width for your foot, the correct length, have arch support and fastenings that allow you to adjust the shoe properly. If you are working outside, it is imperative to be wearing the proper shoes that will safeguard your feet and protect you from random objects falling on them as well!
Choose the right shoe for your comfort and safety.
Getting a foot and lower leg massage from a massage or physical therapist can help the muscles surrounding the joints.
Massaging the area will help to drain fluid collected by inflammation and will alleviate pain. It will increase blood flow to the area and help with general circulation.
You can also buy massage balls designed to get the blood flowing to your feet and relieve pain from tension in the muscles.
#5 Topical Medication
Topical medication creams can help with joint pain. Over-the-counter capsaicin cream may prevent pain from being transmitted to your brain.
Other topical joint creams can include anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen. This is widely available over the counter. Be sure to check with the pharmacist at the time of purchase to ensure it is safe for you to use.
#6 Prescription Medication
Talk to your doctor about medication for your type of arthritis. Depending on the type of arthritis you are diagnosed with, this could include anti-inflammatory drugs, pain-relieving drugs or high-tech biological drugs.
#7 Mobility Accessories
If your arthritis is getting the better of you and making movement difficult then maybe it is time to find a mobility device to help you. This could be a temporary or permanent part of your mobility toolkit.
Crutches or walking canes will help support you when weight bearing on the affected foot and ankle. You should try to rest the joint if it is causing you a lot of pain or inflammation and making it difficult to walk. A wheelchair will be easier if you suffer from arthritis in your upper body too.
Prescription footwear or an air cast boot often used for broken bones may provide temporary support and pain relief if you need to walk on the affected joint.
If your joint is causing unbearable pain or limiting your mobility, then surgery may be an option for you. Partial or total joint replacement is not for the faint heartened but can provide significant relief for a long period of time after the initial healing period.
If you have yet to seek medical advice for arthritis in feet and ankles, then please do so. Your doctor will be able to diagnose the problem and get you started on the best treatment to avoid further pain and degeneration of your foot and ankle.
There are alternative treatments that have helped arthritis sufferers with their symptoms.
For more information on foot health, check out our articles here.