The foot and ankle perform multiple functions including support, shock absorption and balance. They are also one of the most overused structures of the human body. Be it standing, walking or running; it’s the foot and ankle that make mobility a possibility. Due to constant overuse, the cartilage and soft tissue may wear out, and a person is likely to suffer from a painful, debilitating disorder called foot and ankle arthritis or osteoarthritis of the foot and ankle. Apart from osteoarthritis, Rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disorder causing joint inflammation, can also cause severe pain and arthritis in the foot and ankle. Whichever is the case, foot and ankle arthritis can cripple the life of an individual through painful manifestations. Physicians who are members of the Texas Health Spine and Orthopedic Center referral line treat a multitude of orthopedic conditions including foot and ankle injuries. Continuing the discussion, the blog post describes the symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment methods to help a patient with foot and ankle arthritis live as pain free as possible.
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Sharp, shooting pain in the foot and ankle is a common problem in patients struggling with foot and ankle arthritis. Initially, the pain can be mild and get worse as you try to walk or move, depending on the severity of the condition. The pain may also flare up following rigorous activity.
Foot and ankle arthritis causes the loss of cartilage, which is the covering over the joints that allows pain-free motion. Loss of cartilage leads to joint narrowing and spurs and that can lead to joint stiffness.
Swelling of the foot and ankle is one of the classic signs of arthritis and can be accompanied by a warm touch around the affected area. Inflammation is more evident when you try to walk or put on your shoes.
Difficulty in Walking
Foot and ankle arthritis can interfere with a normal life as it robs patients of the ability to move, sit, stand, and even sleep, in extreme cases, due to pain. All in all, the pain from arthritis and the joint destruction, leads to a joint that hurts with activity.
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The doctor may start the diagnosis process with a physical examination of the foot and ankle, observing noticeable symptoms such as swelling, tenderness, bumps, deformity, and checking for the range of motion. They can also ask about the specific times when the pain is at its peak and whether it’s continuous or permanent. Apart from such questions, the doctor will check the patient’s past medical records for injuries that may have led to traumatic foot and ankle arthritis.
During the physical examination, the doctor can also check the way a patient walks through a process called gait analysis. This can tell the physician the effect of arthritis on your gait pattern and also if other joints appear to be affecting your walking pattern.
X-rays and Imaging Tests
X-rays and imaging tests can help reveal a comprehensive picture of the level of joint degradation. More precisely, x-rays will be taken in a standing position to assess the amount of deformity present and the actual areas affected by foot and ankle arthritis.
Additional lab tests can also be ordered, if the doctor suspects the presence of an infection or inflammatory arthritis, such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.
- A shift in lifestyle can help alleviate the painful symptoms of foot and ankle arthritis. The changes include weight reduction to ease off pressure on the joints, switching to low-impact activities, and avoiding activities that may aggravate pain and other symptoms.
- Physical therapy can also be useful as it aims at strengthening the muscles around the specific joints, increasing the flexibility and range of motion. It is also good at helping with balance which can be worsened with age and arthritis.
- Wearing a brace, shoe inserts or footwear with stiff soles can help in absorbing excess pressure off the foot, minimizing pain and increasing mobility.
- Pain relievers such as Ibuprofen and naproxen or steroidal injections can help in bringing down pain and inflammation caused by foot and ankle arthritis.
Surgery is usually the last resort to treat foot and ankle arthritis, wherein the joint and bones degrade to an extent that is beyond repair through conventional treatment methods. The surgeon can suggest the best surgical method, depending on the severity of the condition
Effective during initial stages of arthritis, wherein a surgeon uses medical instruments to clean the affected joint and possibly treat isolated cartilage lesions. The surgery is also helpful in removing bony outgrowths or spurs present in the joint.
Fusion is also called arthrodesis and involves fusing bones together with structures such as rods, pins, and plates. Common fusions involve the ankle or great toe.
Used for severe cases of ankle and foot arthritis. A surgeon replaces the diseased, arthritic joints with artificial implants. This is done in the ankle and less commonly in the great toe.
Many people go through occasional pain in the foot and ankle that is hardly a concern or life changing. If the pain does not go away in a few days but rather sticks around; it’s certainly a red flag and may be foot arthritis, ankle arthritis or both. Though there are a number of methods to get temporary pain relief, they aren’t effective in the long run and, therefore, medical consultation is suggested.