Throughout our lives our weight-bearing joints are subjected to excessive stress and micro-trauma which can lead to the development of Arthritis.
Arthritis refers to degeneration and inflammation in the joints and can affect any part of the body.
Arthritis of the foot can cause pain and disability, effecting not only the ability to exercise, but activities of daily living such as walking and standing.
In this article we briefly discuss this condition.
What Causes Joint Pain in the Foot?
In most cases, arthritis is caused by constant micro-trauma or injury to the joints.
In the case of the feet, it is usually due to years of walking or standing that can result in wear and tear of the joints and bones.
This is often amplified in people who have participated in sport or who have had occupations that involve long periods of weight bearing.
Patients who are overweight are at a higher risk of developing arthritis as well due to the increase in stress on the feet.
The most common type of arthritis that affects people as they get older is called osteoarthritis.
There are other forms of inflammatory arthritis as well that can affect the small joints in the feet and hands.
Rheumatoid Arthritis is one of them and is caused due to a complex immunological reaction where proteins within the body attack the joints.
What are the Symptoms of Arthritis?
Patients with arthritis of the foot experience pain or aching sensations as the most common symptom.
As a result, they may have difficulty walking or doing exercise that aggravates the effected joints.
In addition to this, the joints may be swollen and inflamed and tender to the touch.
This is more common in inflammatory arthropathies such as Rheumatoid Arthritis.
Patients may occasionally have a low grade fever as well. The joints may be stiff and painful on attempted movement.
Most cases of arthritis are diagnosed from clinical history and examination.
X-rays of the joints will provide information on the degree of joint degeneration or destruction.
Other forms of arthritis can also affect the feet – these include Psoriatic Arthritis and Reactive Arthritis. The diagnosis of these forms of Arthritis may also involve blood tests and referral to a Rheumatologist.
How is Arthritis in the foot and Joints treated?
The most important factor in the treatment of Arthritis is determining the cause of the Arthritis in that individual and settling the associated pain.The following are the treatment options available in managing arthritis which can be offered by podiatrists –
- Pain killers – The commonly used ones are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. These can reduce pain and inflammation effectively. These drugs can have side effects so your Podiatrist may suggest a consultation with your local doctor to determine which one will be most appropriate for you.
- Joint supports or orthotics – Podiatrists can offer different type of foot and joint support orthoses that help reduce the stress on the foot and allow patients to walk a little easier. This can help to redistribute pressure away from effected joints and reduce further damage.
- Physical therapy – In some cases massage, dry needling, stretches and strengthening can help to get the joints functioning more efficiently and reduce stress on the effected joint.
- Custom designed footwear – In patients with severe arthritis, foot deformities can occur and the foot can lose its normal shape. Podiatrists can help design appropriate footwear that allows patients to protect their feet and mobilise easier.
- Steroid injections – In some cases where regular pain killers and conservative treatments do not help, your Podiatrist can refer you for steroid injections into the joint space to help rapidly reduce inflammation.
Further Information on Arthritis
- Arthritis Foundation – A voluntary health agency covering all arthritis and related conditions
- Arthritis Australia – Australia’ Arthritis group with some good information sheets.
Arthritis of the foot and joint pains are usually age and activity related and can be rather frustrating for many people.
Podiatrists are able to manage patients with different forms of arthritis and can help patients mobilise better, thus improving their quality of life.