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Foot Care for Arthritis

We rely on our feet for stability and movement. Feet are complex structures that support our weight and provide the ability to move in amazing ways. In fact, there are 28 bones and more than 30 joints in each foot! Although we take them for granted when everything feels fine, feet are unfortunately more prone to injury and conditions such as arthritis. Possible consequences of arthritis of the foot include pain, swelling, stiffness, and loss of mobility. Proper foot care for arthritis can help minimize these symptoms.

Types of foot arthritis

There are more than 100 different kinds of arthritis that can affect the joints of the foot, but most cases belong to one of three categories: osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and posttraumatic arthritis.

 

Osteoarthritis is the most common, caused by wear and tear of the joints over time. Most people with osteoarthritis are over 50 but it can occur in younger people. Repeated stress of the joints wears away the cartilage in one or more joints. The bones of the joint then rub together painfully and bone spurs may develop. This condition may result in a bunion.

 

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder. Nobody knows the exact cause, but it is thought to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Often beginning in the foot, the immune system attacks the synovium, or lining of the joints. This causes painful swelling that can result in permanent deformity.

 

Posttraumatic arthritis develops after an injury, usually a fracture. People who have had an injury to the foot are much more likely to develop arthritis later on. This type of arthritis involves the wearing away of cartilage, similar to osteoarthritis. It can occur at any age if there has been a foot injury.

 

Foot arthritis care

Although there is no cure for arthritis, there are steps you can take to relieve pain and increase flexibility.

 

Weight loss – obesity increases the risk of developing arthritis due to increased pressure on the joints. Losing weight, even a small amount, can make a big difference in reducing pressure and pain.

NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as ibuprofen and naproxen can be very effective in reducing swelling and relieving pain.

Physical therapy and exercise can increase mobility through flexibility and strengthening of supporting muscles.

Changing activities – If high impact activities are part of your routine, consider changing to something less likely to put stress on the joints of your feet. Walking, swimming, and yoga are good examples or exercises that are low-impact.

Orthotic devices and comfortable shoes – shoe inserts can relieve pressure on damaged joints and reduce pain when walking. High heels and point-toed shoes should be avoided. Shoes should be wide enough so that your foot is not being squeezed (especially if you have a bunion) with a square-toed front.

Apply cold packs – Cold helps reduce swelling and numbs painful joints, especially after you’ve been on your feet for a significant period of time.

Assistive devices – a cane can be a good way to reduce the amount of weight placed on your foot when walking.

 

If you have arthritis of the foot, your doctor can help determine the best treatment plan for your unique condition and activities. At the Colorado Center for Orthopaedic Excellence, our caring providers are experts in all kinds of foot and ankle conditions, including arthritis. In the Colorado Springs area, call (719) 623-1050 for an appointment today.

Rheumatoid Arthritis vs Osteoarthritis

There are many types of arthritis, but the most common two are Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) and Osteoarthritis (OA). While both types of arthritis carry many similarities, they can be quite different when it comes to the onset of symptoms, causes, and the overall diagnoses.

Osteoarthritis affects an estimated 27 million people in the United States, while 1.3 million people suffer from Rheumatoid arthritis. Such a different ration shows why osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis. Typically caused by wear and tear, osteoarthritis tends to get worse as we get older. It tends to affect the lining in the cartilage of the joint, making movement more difficult than usual, leading to pain and stiffness.

Once the cartilage lining starts to roughen and thin out, the tendons and ligaments have to work harder. This can cause swelling and the formation of bony spurs, called osteophytes. The loss of cartilage also leads to friction where bone is rubbing on bone, altering the shape of the joint and forcing the bones out of their normal position. While OA typically shows up later in life, it can happen earlier, especially if certain injuries have occurred. 

While similarly affecting the joints, the causes and symptoms of RA are quite different than that of OA. Rheumatoid arthritis occurs when the body’s immune system targets affected joints, which leads to pain and swelling. The outer covering of the joint called the synovium is the first place that becomes affected. This can then lead to further swelling and a change in the joint’s shape, and may cause the bone and cartilage to break down. Unfortunately, the nature of RA as an immune system disorder means that people with rheumatoid arthritis can also develop problems with other tissues and organs in their body.

Common symptoms of osteoarthritis are joint pain and stiffness, typically on joints like the hip and knee. Pain from OA is typically worse in the morning or after periods of strenuous activity. Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis may include fever, loss of energy, and extreme fatigue. Swelling in smaller joints are common.

Early diagnosis and treatment of both RA and OA is essential to prevent further complications. For osteoarthritis patients, treatment may include exercises to strengthen your muscles, physical therapy, and medication. In cases of severely damaged joints, a joint replacement surgery might be the last resort. People suffering from rheumatoid arthritis treatment may include the need for medication and physical therapy to reduce inflammation, and to prevent joint and organ damage. 

If you would like to find out more information about either rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis, call Colorado Center of Orthopaedic Excellence at (719) 623-1050, or request an appointment online.