Arthritis in the feet can occur at any age. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, three types of arthritis affect the feet. Osteoarthritis is due to wear and tear over time. Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory disease affecting the whole body including the feet. Post-traumatic arthritis is the result of a sprain, fracture or other foot injury. No single treatment fits every person. Treatment depends on the severity of the disease and how it affects daily activity.
Identifying Foot Arthritis
When you have recurring pain or tenderness in the feet and difficulty walking due to the pain, you may have arthritis. Symptoms including stiffness, swelling or knobby toe joints are signs of arthritis. Your doctor confirms arthritis through physical examination and X-rays or bone scans.
Change your shoes to stiff-soled shoes that support loosened tendons. Relieve hammertoes and bunions with round or box-toe shoes that do not crowd arthritic joints. Ask your doctor about orthotics, shoe inserts that support weakened tendons and flattened arches.
Stretch the Achilles tendon at the heel to improve foot motion. Rock gently toe to heel on bare feet to stretch tendons. Put a rolling pin or round wood dowel under the foot arch and gently roll it back and forth. Place marbles on the floor and pick them up one at a time with the toes and drop them. Use a tennis ball or sponge ball under the foot arch and roll it back and forth, then pass it from one foot to the other by rotating your ankles.
Ask your doctor's advice for over-the-counter pain relievers and anti-inflammatory analgesics. Salves and lotions for the feet provide help in two ways, by both the analgesic ingredients and the gentle massage to rub in the ointments. Nutritional supplements and nutraceuticals such as glucosamine and chondroitin may help relive pain and reduce swelling. Prescription medication or injections provide relief for many people.
Lose excess weight. Every pound lost is one pound directly off the damaged joints. Change your habits to minimize stair climbing, walking on uneven ground or impact exercises. Use non-skid carpet runners on slick floors. Wear ankle warmers to improve circulation to the feet.
When non-surgical treatments are not effective, surgery may be appropriate. Arthroscopic surgery in the early stages of arthritis removes inflamed tissue and debris causing foot pain. Surgical fusion uses rods, pins or other mechanical aids to hold damaged toe bones together as they heal into one piece. Arthroplasty replaces a damaged ankle with an artificial implant. The ultimate goal of any treatment is less pain and more mobility.