The most common type of arthritis is osteoarthritis. It is seen in many people as they age, although it may begin when they are younger as a result of injury or overuse. It is often more painful in weight bearing joints such as the knee, hip, and spine than in the wrist, elbow, and shoulder joints. All joints may be affected if they are used extensively in work or sports, or if they have been damaged from fractures or other injuries. The most commonly affected joint in the foot is the big toe joint, as that joint bears the brunt of your full body weight with walking and running. If your foot is relatively unstable, or flattens out more than it should, then the big toe joint doesn’t function like it should and jamming of the joint can occur, leading to eventual breakdown of the joint and arthritis.
In osteoarthritis, the cartilage covering the ends of the bones gradually wears away. In many cases, bone growths called “spurs” can develop. The inflammation in and around the joint causes pain and swelling. Continued use of the joint produces pain. Some relief may be possible through rest or modified activity. Reducing motion of the arthritic joint with rigid-soled shoes can be helpful. Establishing a more normal functioning joint by addressing instability in the foot with custom orthotics is often helpful in reducing pain. Surgery to remove bone spurs and clean up the arthritic joint may be necessary. If the condition has progressed to the point where conservative care isn’t enough to keep you comfortable, surgically fusing the joint to eliminate motion altogether may be the best option to relieve pain.
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If you are suffering from arthritis in your feet, make an appointment to see how we can help you stay comfortable and return you to your active lifestyle.