Given enough force, friction stops cars, starts fires, and smooths even the hardest surfaces. It shouldn’t be a surprise, then, that it can damage joints. Arthritis is a painful problem related to friction and inflammation that can affect any joint. When you develop it in your feet, it can sharply and painfully limit your mobility.
Inflammation, Irritation, and Types of Arthritis
Arthritis is actually a category of bone and joint problems. There are many different kinds with several different causes. They do all have a few things in common, though. They are all a form of destructive inflammation in your joint tissues that increase the friction and stiffness between your bones. They are also progressive conditions, which means they can and do get worse with time.
There are a few main types of arthritis that are common in the feet and ankles:
Osteoarthritis – This is the result of wear and tear over the years. Eventually the protective cartilage over your bones wears away, allowing them to grind directly against each other. The friction is painful and stiffens the joint. Eventually it can create bone spurs.
Rheumatoid Arthritis – This is actually an autoimmune disease. Your body suddenly attacks the protective tissues around your joints, causing inflammation and swelling. As the tissues break down, the bones rub together and compound the damage, potentially deforming your feet.
Post-Traumatic Arthritis – This occurs after a serious injury like a fracture. The injury damages the protective surfaces in your joints. Regular use and movement over time then wears the tissues down further, creating friction between the bones.
Gout – This is a completely different kind of arthritis, related to a build-up of uric acid crystals in your joints. The needle-like crystals scratch against the protective tissues and bones when you use your foot, damaging a joint over time.
Controlling the Pain, Saving Your Joints
The earlier you take care of foot or ankle arthritis, the easier it is to keep it from getting worse. Leaving the problem alone simply gives it a chance to progress. Our team of specialists at Martin Foot and Ankle will carefully examine your lower limbs and determine what may have caused your joint deterioration. This may require diagnostic images and other tests. Then we can help you establish a plan for managing your condition.
Because gout is a complex and unusual type of arthritis, its treatment tends to be very different from the other types and involves medication and diet changes. In general, though, other types of foot arthritis can be treated conservatively with lifestyle changes, shoes and orthotics, physical therapy, and possibly medications. Minimizing hard-impact activities reduces the wear and tear that makes joint damage worse. Instead, stick to low-impact sports that let you stay active without stressing your bones.
Physical therapy increases range of motion and flexibility. This can help you keep some movement and improve your joint function. Most likely you’ll need some kind of support in your shoes, too. The right footwear alleviates pressure on your lower limbs and may cushion painful bones. Stiff soles prevent excessive motion from happening in vulnerable joints. Orthotics can correct biomechanics and accommodate issues when shoe changes aren’t enough. For some conditions, particularly rheumatoid arthritis, you may need to combine your care with medication to control the problem. If your pain is severe or the condition keeps progressing despite treatment, you might actually need surgery.
Arthritis is a serious problem for feet and ankles that can limit your mobility and cause significant pain. It doesn’t have to control your life, though. The sooner you diagnose and treat the problem, the more likely you’ll be able to control it. Let our team at Martin Foot and Ankle help you keep your feet functioning without pain. You can use our online request form to make an appointment at our York, Lancaster, or Hanover offices. You can also call (717) 757-3537 directly.
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