Arthritis and your feet

Arthritis is an inflammation and swelling of the cartilage and lining of the joints, generally accompanied by an increase in fluid at the joint.  The foot can be especially sensitive to arthritis, because there are thirty-three different joints in a single foot.  Arthritis in the joints can cause extreme foot pain and sometimes become debilitating.

 

Cause of Arthritis

The causes of arthritis are too numerous to name here, but it is often associated with other types of illnesses.  In some forms it does seem to be hereditary.  It is estimated that over 70 million people in America (one out of three) suffer from some form of arthritis.  It can be found in infants to adults, but the majority of those who have it are over fifty years of age.  For more information, visit the Arthritis Foundation at www.arthritis.org.

 

Types of Arthritis

Arthritis can vary from being manageable to being extremely painful and debilitating.  There are many different types of arthritis, but today we'll talk about three of them.

  • Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis.  It is frequently called degenerative joint disease, and usually occurs as we get older and the cartilage breaks down in our joints.  It is usually associated with a dull ache and sometimes goes away with rest.
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis is a major crippling disorder and the most serious form of arthritis.  It usually occurs in a symmetrical pattern, both ankles, both knees, etc.  It may also affect various systems of the body such as the lungs, eyes, heart, and nervous system.  Women are three to four times more likely to suffer from rheumatoid arthritis than are men.  Rheumatoid arthritis has a much more acute onset than osteoarthritis.  It is characterized by alternating periods of remission and exacerbation.  The symptoms last for weeks or months and then they may dissipate and not return for a while.
  • Gout is a condition caused by the buildup of the salts of uric acid and is most commonly found in men.  The foot's big toe joint is a common location for this issue.  Gout is extremely painful and can be debilitating if left untreated.  Gout can be treated with medications, proper diet, and exercise.

 

Treatment of Arthritic feet.

First, if you have not seen a medical doctor you should.  There are a number of different medicines that can be prescribed by a doctor to help control the effects of arthritis.

Second, a shoe store with a certified Pedorthist on staff can go over the many options that will take the forces off the joints being affected.  We at Murray's Shoes pride ourselves with have the most experienced and successful Pedorthist in the state working with Arthritic feet every day.

In treating an arthritic foot in a nonsurgical manner a complete pedorthic assessment of the lower extremity must be performed.  We start at the hips to check for a leg length difference and then for tightness in the calves and hamstrings.  As we go to the foot we are looking for a flexible foot or for any fixations in the foot.  All of this information is crucial to the management of your arthritic foot.  From here we start with an appropriate arch support.  In a more chronic painful foot, custom foot orthotic will be necessary.  From this point we look to adding a modification to a pair of shoes.  Most common modification is a rocker bottom added to the shoes which will allow the foot to go through a more normal gait without added forces on the foot.  In the event that we have any self-fusion or surgical fusion to the ankle, there is a possibility that an AFO (ankle foot orthosis) may have to be used.  Stabilizing the foot and offloading the harmful forces on the foot will help reduce the stress on the arthritic foot and prolong out the destruction of the joints.  Arthritis is a systemic condition without a cure.  The pain you may be having is only going to get worse.  But with proper management of the arthritic foot we can reduce the current level of pain and slow down the devastating effects of the disease.