While it may be true that there is no “cure” as such for Osteoathritis (OA) – just as you can’t stop the ageing process, we can’t expect to stop a NORMAL age-related change. What we CAN expect is to get pain-relief in arthritic joints! The great news is that YES pain can be FIXED… there are many treatments to keep you pain-free and active!
Do you tell yourself…
“Oh it’s just old age!”
“It’s arthritis, there’s not much I can do!”
“It’s in the family, I’ve got my Mothers feet”…
Then you simply MUST read on because we have some great news for you!
Arthritis and the Feet
3 IMPORTANT Foot Facts
- There are 33 joints in each foot
- On average in a lifetime a person will walk 5 TIMES around the world!
- Osteoarthritis is a NORMAL finding in those aged over 50 (over 50% will have OA changes visible on x-ray)
So, you can see why osteoarthritis is so common!
There are however many different types of arthritis, with the two main types being Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis. Other types of Arthritis can include Gout and Juvenile Onset Arthritis.
Osteoarthritis involves normal age related changes of “wear and tear” of joints as a lot of people know it. A layer of cartilage exists between the bones, forming the joint. The joint acts as the cushion between the bones and helps the bones to move smoothly, by sliding and gliding against eachother. With OA the cartilage can thin and become worn. What happens here is that the joint dries out and essentially loses its oil or grease and like the tin-man, starts to become stiffer and less mobile with time. Joints can typically feel stiff in the morning, easing with movement, and are painful after activity or a long time on your feet. Other joints are then having to work harder and are affected so it can cause pain elsewhere too! Often OA is diagnosed through clinical symptoms or after having an x-ray.
Important risk factors to consider with Osteoarthritis:
- Family history
- Poor biomechanics (walking – high arches/low arches)
With regards to the foot, the most common site for foot arthritis is the big toe joint however you can get it commonly in the midfoot, ankles and other toes also. It also more commonly affects joints which have been exposed to previous injury (that we hope you’ve treated appropriately at the time)
Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) has a much lower occurrence rate with approximately 1% of the female population affected, and about 0.5% of males. Compared to degenerative arthritis like OA, Rheumatoid is an inflammatory arthritis and is classified as an auto-immune condition. It is characterised by joint flare ups, and can be sore without having predictive pain presentations. RA is usually diagnosed through a blood test and checking serum levels or markers indicative of inflammation. Medication is usually targeted as controlling pain and flare-ups. The most common medication in this category for RA is called Methotrexate, although there are other medications providing a similar effect also. Over time, foot shape can change and the ball of the foot becomes prominent.
Gout is characterised by sudden severe pain in the joints. Gout mainly tends to affect the big toe joint and the knee joint. It is thought that gout attacks can be brought on by too much acidic food or alcohol – although there is a whole list of potential foods that can bring on an attack! It is diagnosed through having a blood test which will assess levels of uric acid. Uric acids levels become elevated within the blood, and will then leave deposits within the joints. The uric acid forms hard and sharp crystals – this is what makes gout so darn painful! Often Gout is medically managed through medications such as Pro-Gout or Allopurinol. Some will take the medication as needed, whilst others will take it ongoing for prevention of future attacks.
It really is important to note that it is not all doom and gloom with Arthritis, and that there are in fact many EFFECTIVE exercises for pain-relief and a better quality of life.
As Podiatrists we help clients manage all types of arthritis.
Common effective treatments for Foot Arthritis include:
- Foot and Ankle Mobilisation Therapy (FMT)
- Comfortable Custom Orthotics (to take pressure off the feet! Research shows great results for pain reduction)
- Footwear Advice
- Regular Nail and Skin Care
- Self Management Strategies (exercises to maintain mobility of the joint – use it or lose it!)
- Surgical Intervention may be sought for extensive toe or foot deformities or when conservative options are exhausted
If you’re suffering thinking nothing can be done for your Arthritis we encourage you to seek help!
There are many fantastic options that can ease the pain and keep you on your feet for longer to do the things you love!