Arthritis affecting joints in the feet can have far-reaching effects on other parts of the body; your ligaments, tendons and muscles are forced to work harder to maintain stability. This can cause overuse injuries including ankle sprains, torn ligaments and a greater risk of falls.
So, what is Arthritis?
Well Arthritis is simply an umbrella term for any disease that affects the joints. While there are over 100 diseases within this umbrella – the most common forms of arthritis are osteoarthritis (“wear and tear”), rheumatoid arthritis and gout.
Because each foot contains 33 joints and bears a tremendous amount of weight and pressure, feet may be more susceptible to arthritis than other part of the body. When arthritis affects the feet, it makes standing and movement very uncomfortable.
Another key concern for arthritis sufferers is chronic pain, which has huge effects on overall health. Severe pain not only limits movement, but also disturbs sleep and can lead to problems with mental health and overall well-being.
While arthritis may occur in any part of the foot, certain forms of arthritis have a tendency to affect specific parts. For example, rheumatoid arthritis commonly affects the smaller joints of the foot while osteoarthritis tends to involve the big toe or the ankle.
The signs and symptoms of arthritis of the foot vary, depending on which joint is affected.
According to Arthritis Australia, early intervention can delay the onset of osteoarthritis. Foot care can relieve pain, maintain function and improve quality of life using safe, cost-effective treatments. An annual foot review is recommended for patients at risk of developing serious complications. Podiatrists work with your GP to provide education and information to help you manage the condition, improve pain and prevent further damage to your joints.
People who suffer with Arthritis are often concerned that by being physically active they will cause pain or increased damage to their joints, when in fact gentle physical activity can reduce some of the symptoms of Arthritis and improve joint mobility and stability.
There are many things a podiatrist can do to help people with arthritis including:
- Functional assessment of the lower leg and feet
- Advice about strategies for managing the condition.
- Exercise prescription to help to keep the joint moving and relieve any stiffness and pain. This can greatly improve your quality of life and your general comfort and mobility.
- Orthotic insoles and shoes specifically made to support your foot will increase cushioning or shock absorption, they can also direct pressure away from the more sensitive areas of the feet to make walking easier.
- Footwear advice about the types of shoes most suitable to the activity and the foot shape.
- Removal or reduction of Corns or Calluses that may develop on toes or under the foot as a result of joint changes. Advice to protect the areas and prevent recurrence.Even with the best of treatment, arthritis of the foot and ankle may continue to cause you pain or changes in your activities. However, proper diagnosis and treatment will help to minimise these limitations and allow you to lead a productive, active lifestyle.