Foot arthritis and osteoarthritis

Updated on 27 April 2023

Foot arthritis and osteoarthritis

With its complex structure of more than 30 joints, the foot is often the first part of the body to be affected by arthritis and osteoarthritis. This condition affects most adults over the age of fifty. Fortunately, solutions exist to relieve pain and limit the effects of joint deformity. Here is what a chiropodist can offer as foot arthritis and osteoarthritis treatment.

What is foot arthritis?

Foot arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disease that causes the breakdown of joints and related tissues, such as tendons and ligaments. Arthritis in the foot often results from a failure of the person’s immune system, which attacks healthy joint tissues. What does arthritis in the foot feel like? Foot arthritis symptoms often mean people experience stiffness in their movements and pain; their joints may be swollen. Their range of motion and mobility are affected. Foot arthritis can significantly impact the patient’s quality of life and mood. 

What is the difference between arthritis of the foot and osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is one of the most common forms of arthritis. It attacks the cartilage and reduces the amount of cartilage in the joints. The bodies of affected patients are unable to regenerate enough flexibility in their joints. Unlike arthritis, osteoarthritis is not related to the patient’s immune system. It is caused by wear and tear of the joints.

Is this a common problem?

Foot arthritis is a common problem people over fifty are more likely to experience. 

Different causes of foot arthritis

Although the exact cause of arthritis in the foot is unknown, it can occur due to the gradual wear and tear of the joints that support the body’s weight. People can live with arthritis for many years without realizing it. For example, athletes who participate in high-impact activities may wear out their joints gradually and only feel the effects once they are older. 

Age is a factor in the development of arthritis, particularly osteoarthritis. As you age, the joints lose more and more elasticity. It is, therefore, common for older people to experience more intense symptoms of foot arthritis than younger people. 

Gender is also a factor in the development of foot arthritis. Women are twice as likely to be affected as men. But arthritis does not only affect adults and the aging population. It can sometimes develop in children in the form of juvenile arthritis. However, these cases are rarer. Heredity is also one of the causes of arthritis. A person whose parents or grandparents had foot arthritis is more likely to develop this condition. 

People can develop arthritis of the foot following a poorly healed injury or if a pathology affecting the foot has weakened its musculoskeletal structure. The unbalanced weight of the body puts pressure on certain joints, which accelerates wear and tear. 

Who is most likely to be affected by foot arthritis?

Arthritis of the foot primarily affects people over 50, especially women. 

Symptoms of foot arthritis

Arthritis can cause cracking during certain movements or the sensation of feeling your joints creak. Some actions can be painful and challenging to perform as the affected joints and ligaments become stiffer. The pains intensify during activity, which may lead some patients to decrease their time spent exercising or playing sports. Arthritis of the feet can also cause bone growth and make the toes feel hard to move. This can affect a patient’s balance. Joints affected by arthritis may also be red and swollen. Finally, arthritis can deform the joint, especially in the toes, which can lead to hammer toes. There is no cure for foot arthritis. There are foot arthritis treatments that significantly slow down its effects and allow the patient to live comfortably. This is why, as soon as the first symptoms appear, it is recommended to consult a healthcare professional.

Chiropodists’ diagnosis of foot arthritis

A chiropodist assesses the patient with a podiatric exam; they will also want to know their family history to determine the exact type of arthritis. Medical imaging may be required to develop a foot arthritis treatment plan. In some cases, a blood test may need to measure inflammation. 

Treatments offered by chiropodists to treat arthritis of the foot

Depending on the exact location and extent of the arthritis, a chiropodist may offer the patient several options. Pain is often the first and most debilitating concern for people. To treat it, Shockwave therapy can be a solution. This non-invasive method emits waves into the affected tissues to encourage the body to regenerate. Laser therapy is also a solution that can be considered to mitigate pain and help the affected structures repair themselves. One of the advantages of this method is that it delivers a slight heat, which helps to relax the tissues. Pain medication may also be an option for those not eligible for these treatments. Some more severe pain can also be treated with cortisone injections, but this is usually considered only if the previous ones are ineffective. 

In addition to pain management, patients can wear custom orthotics if their feet are deformed. These will help the patient walk more comfortably, relieving the foot of pressure points, and help improve posture. 

As a last resort, if the patient’s foot arthritis is severe, surgery may be recommended. The chiropodist can then advise the patient on which professional to contact.

H3 – How long does it take for the foot arthritis pain to disappear?

Depending on the foot arthritis treatment chosen, the time it takes for the pain to disappear may vary. With medication, the pain may decrease within an hour. Methods, including laser therapy or ShockWave therapy, may be painful during the clinic session; however, the benefits are felt within a few days and last a long time.

H3 – Are there any contraindications to the various treatments?

There are certain contraindications to laser and Shockwave therapy. These should only be prescribed after a thorough exam by a chiropodist. The patient must inform the chiropodist of their health history and current condition beforehand

Ways to prevent arthritis in feet

Preventing arthritis in feet involves maintaining a healthy weight and moderate daily physical activity. These two solutions help to avoid putting too much weight on the joints, keeping them supple and strong. At the same time, shoes are also important. If the shoes are not adapted to the patient, they can cause posture problems and prematurely wear out the foot joints. Maintaining healthy joints by doing stretching and self-massage regularly is advised. 

Keeping your feet healthy with a chiropodist

Unless it is genetic, the onset of a foot condition can be difficult to predict. Nevertheless, it is recommended to seek the advice of a healthcare professional as soon as discomfort or pain is experienced. This is especially important for people living with diabetes. This disease weakens the immune system and exacerbates complications of foot problems. To maintain good health, inspecting their condition and a follow-up in a podiatric clinic are the best solutions. Consult the list of FootNetwork clinics for your next appointment. 

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