Foot and Ankle Arthritis

Foot and Ankle Arthritis

Arthritis is a potentially debilitating condition characterized by joint stiffness and inflammation that damages cartilage over time. Without cartilage, the foot bones start rubbing together, resulting in extreme pain in many cases. Though arthritis is common among older people, it can develop in earlier years and progress with age.

Foot and ankle arthritis is especially painful, as it affects body parts you frequently use. The big toe, ankle and midfoot usually develop arthritis. Daily struggles with your mobility can affect your lifestyle and activities. Learn more about foot and ankle arthritis, its causes, symptoms, exercises and treatment and how Foot & Ankle Surgical Associates can help.

Causes of Foot and Ankle Arthritis

Foot and ankle arthritis comes in various forms, including post-traumatic arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis. The causes associated with each type of arthritis relate to old injuries, an autoimmune disorder and age-related wear and tear.

  • Post-traumatic arthritis: Symptoms associated with post-traumatic arthritis may only present years after an injury occurs. You may have forgotten or dismissed the extent of the injury at the time. Discuss unexplained joint pain and inflammation in your feet and ankles with your doctor, who can help you establish when and what happened. They will then offer customized advice and a tailored treatment plan.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis: With this autoimmune affliction, cells in the body erroneously attack their soft tissue, leading to stiffness, swelling and aching in both feet. Nonsurgical treatment helps with pain, but you could also consider surgery if you struggle daily.
  • Osteoarthritis: This arthritis type usually begins in people in their 50s and older due to the overuse and subsequent degeneration of cartilage over time. Often, the issue is asymmetrical, affecting only one foot instead of both. A doctor may present surgery as an option if the extent is severe.

Some other causes attributed to foot and ankle arthritis include:

  • Genetics
  • Misaligned joints
  • Obesity
  • Consistent strain and stress

Ankle Arthritis Symptoms

Anyone affected by ankle arthritis will point out the high level of discomfort they experience, often leading to grave pain after prolonged standing or sitting. Some characteristics of ankle arthritis include:

  • Limited mobility or ability to walk or move around.
  • Inability to bend the ankle due to stiffness and swelling.
  • Stiffness and noticeable ankle joint swelling.
  • Pain and tenderness of the soft tissue around the joint upon touch, signaling inflammation.

Treatment Options

A few measures will help you treat the symptoms associated with arthritis. Most are nonsurgical, though you and your doctor might consider surgical treatment in some cases. Here are a few options to relieve the pain and assist with daily functioning.

Nonsurgical Treatment

Nonsurgical treatment includes lifestyle and diet changes or wearing supportive braces or orthotics to provide the relief you need. You can consider these before surgery, depending on your arthritis progression  and pain severity.

Here are some nonsurgical options you can try after receiving a proper diagnosis from your doctor.

  • Lifestyle adaptations: Changing your diet and including anti-inflammatory food sources could help relieve the pain naturally. Drinking plenty of water improves lubrication so the bones experience less friction. Losing weight reduces the pressure on your joints during movement, easing pain. Additionally, incorporating low-impact training and sports activities will decrease strain and stress on your feet.
  • Braces and orthotics: Wearing supportive shoes balances your feet and provides the necessary support to reduce pain and inflammation. Braces and shoe inserts or orthotics are ideal, since they lessen pressure and pain when walking.
  • Anti-inflammatory medication: Cortisone and non-steroid injections instantly relieve pain but are short-term solutions. Painkillers like ibuprofen and tramadol will also help, but the discomfort will eventually return if it’s severe.
  • Physical therapy: A physical therapist will teach you movement exercises that target the affected areas in your feet. They will determine the pressure and intensity of the therapy sessions and whether they are an effective treatment method for your case.
  • Foot arthritis exercises: Like physical therapy, your doctor will prescribe specific movements to strengthen your foot muscles. They will show you how to do it correctly at home to prevent further injury or damage. Alternatively, the doctor will facilitate regular exercise sessions to ensure your healing progresses.

Surgical Treatment

Ask your doctor about surgery if nonsurgical treatments are no longer effective and extreme pain affects your mobility and daily functioning. Here are some options your doctor could recommend.

  • Arthroscopy: This procedure serves as a preventive treatment if done at the onset of arthritis but has a high success rate later. It involves removing loose cartilage, bone spurs and inflamed tissue around your joints. A surgeon inserts a tiny camera into a small incision made in your foot joint. Then, they use the video to guide the surgical instruments to remove the intrusive cartilage and tissue.
  • Arthrodesis: This procedure fuses the joint bones to reduce movement and ease pain. After detaching the deteriorated cartilage, a surgeon will insert screws and pins to fix the bones into place.
  • Arthroplasty: This operation replaces the ankle with metal or plastic after removing damaged cartilage and bone. Once healed, the joint regains mobility. Doctors primarily recommend this form of surgery for patients whose advanced ankle arthritis prevents them from participating in typical activities. You can resume daily functions with aftercare treatment and sufficient recovery time.

Get Proper Care for Your Foot Arthritis With Foot & Ankle Surgical Associates

No foot problem is too complex for the professionals at Foot & Ankle Surgical Associates. Whether you have an inquiry about a minor concern you’ve noticed that has not yet progressed or you’re dealing with foot pain that disrupts your daily life, we will help you find the right solution to your unique issue. Our team of expert doctors is eager to resolve foot-related concerns so you can get back to doing what you love.

Don’t hesitate to call us at 360-754-3338 or send an email with your details, and we will call you back to discuss your requirements.


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