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Arthritis In Your Feet And Ankles: Dealing with foot pain
What causes arthritis and how to manage the symptoms
Arthritis is inflammation of one or more joints in your body. It often occurs as a result of injury to the joint but can also be a part of the cartilage's normal wear and tear between your joints. The predominant symptoms of arthritis are pain, stiffness, and swelling in the affected area. Your foot has 28 bones and 33 joints – making it a vulnerable part of the body to get arthritis.
Some parts of your foot are more vulnerable to developing arthritis than others. These areas include the joint where your ankle and shinbone meet, your midfoot bones and the joint between your big toe and foot bone. Joint inflammation caused by arthritis in the affected foot can decrease your foot function, cause significant foot pain, and lead to other foot problems like deformities.
Common Kinds of Arthritis That Affect Your Feet
Although there are over 100 different kinds of arthritis, there are a few types that most often affect the feet. These include osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, post-traumatic arthritis, gout, and psoriatic arthritis.
Osteoarthritis is usually due to the normal wear and tear of your joints. It happens when the cartilage that protects your joints, called articular cartilage, wears away or becomes frayed and rough. When this occurs, it could cause your bones to rub against each other, which causes pain and discomfort. Osteoarthritis could cause bony growths, called bone spurs. Bone spurs are mostly harmless but need to be looked at if they cause pain or discomfort.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a type of autoimmune disease that usually affects multiple joints in your body. It often starts in the feet and typically involves both sides of your body. Rheumatoid arthritis mostly affects the joints in your hands and feet but can also affect the ankle joints. This condition could also lead to the development of rheumatoid nodules – round, hard bumps that form under your skin. They are commonly found under the balls of your feet, on the sides of your foot, on your toes, or your instep. These nodules can cause pain and discomfort when they rub against your shoes, or when you are walking if they are on the balls of your feet.
Post-traumatic arthritis can happen when you have sustained an injury to a joint. Most often, injuries like dislocations and fractures could lead to post-traumatic arthritis – even years after the original injury.
Gout occurs when there is a build-up of uric acid in your body. The uric acid forms needle-shaped crystals that get stuck between your body’s tissues and joints. The first sign of gouty arthritis is usually felt in the big toe, which becomes sore and swollen.
Psoriatic arthritis is a symptom that accompanies a skin disease called psoriasis. This kind of arthritis is commonly found in toes, at the back of your heel, and could also affect your ankles.
Foot and Ankle Arthritis Symptoms
The main symptoms of foot and ankle arthritis include pain, swelling, and stiffness in your joints. You might experience the following symptoms when you have foot and ankle arthritis:
- Pain or tenderness when moving the joint.
- Pain or tenderness when you apply pressure to the joint.
- Joints that are more painful than usual after increased activity.
- Stiffness in the affected joint.
- Swelling, warmth, or redness in or around the joint.
- Reduced mobility- difficulty moving the joint, which includes difficulty walking.
- Increased pain, inflammation, and swelling in the morning, during the night, or after sitting for a while.
- The pain could be mild and only occur occasionally at first – especially after placing stress on the joint.
- Pain and stiffness could become worse as the condition progresses. This can especially be noticed when walking or standing.
- Fatigue. Painful joints affect the way you move, walk, and perform everyday activities. You might be adjusting the way you do things to accommodate the pain. These modified movements could use more energy than the movements would when you are pain-free, making you feel more tired.
Complications Related to Arthritis in the Feet
Foot arthritis could cause more than painful joints, stiffness, and swelling. In some cases, it could lead to conditions that could hamper your natural movements. Some of these conditions include hallux rigidus, bunions, and plantar fasciitis.
Hallux rigidus is when the cartilage in your big toe wears away, causing the bones to fuse. This condition makes it difficult to move your big toe and could make it more challenging to walk.
The presence of hallux rigidus along with osteoarthritis in your big toe, could cause your big toe to grow inwards, towards your other toes. This condition is officially known as hallux valgus, and more commonly known as bunions. Bunions are characterized by a lump that grows out of the side of your big toe. The skin over this lump can often be red and swollen, and eventually, become hard. Your big toe plays a role in helping you keep your balance, and the inward growth of it affects your stability - especially when you are walking or standing.
Inflammatory arthritis, like rheumatoid arthritis or gout, can cause something called plantar fasciitis. This condition is commonly referred to as 'policeman's heel' as the inflammation occurs in the area where the fascia underneath your foot attaches to your heel bone. While plantar fasciitis is usually a symptom experienced by people who have foot arthritis, it could also be caused by the shortening of your Achilles tendon.
Ways to Prevent Arthritis in Feet and Ankles
The best way to prevent arthritis in the feet and ankles is to take care of them. Wearing proper footwear is an integral part of that. Shoes that give you adequate support can help you avoid injuries that can lead to post-traumatic arthritis. Proper-fitting shoes that conform to your feet can assist in keeping your bones, joints, and the soft tissues of your feet secure and protected. Adequate cushioning lessens the amount of shock that your feet need to absorb, especially when you walk, run, or participate in high-impact activities and are definitely worth the investment.
Keeping your feet and ankles healthy includes regular exercise and a balanced diet. Focus on exercises that stretch and strengthen your feet and ankles, joints, and supporting muscles and soft tissues. Follow a healthy and well-balanced diet to ensure that you consume enough nutrients that fuel healthy joint health.
How to Relieve Pain from Arthritis in Feet
Arthritis foot pain can be frustrating and, if extreme, even debilitating. There are a number of ways that you can treat joint pain naturally before considering surgery.
- Rest and stay off your feet.
- Use hot and cold packs to alleviate the pain. The heat relaxes and soothes while cold creates a numbing effect.
- Elevate your foot or feet.
- Soak your feet in warm water to help ease the inflammation. A warm bath or spending time in a hot tub can help soothe painful joints while taking the weight off your feet. So there it is, you are now allowed to call your hot tub sessions 'therapeutic'.
- Use anti-inflammatory medication to reduce the inflammation and swelling in the joint.
- Use pain medication to alleviate the pain. Pain medication can be over-the-counter for mild pain, or you might need your doctor to prescribe stronger pain medication for more intense pain.
- In some cases, you could get steroid injections directly into the affected joints to reduce inflammation, pain, and swelling.
How to Avoid Surgery When You Have Arthritis Surgery is not always necessary to alleviate foot pain caused by arthritis. There are some things that you can do to manage your pain and symptoms at home.
Low-impact exercise can help improve flexibility and range of motion in the affected foot joints. These kinds of exercises also strengthen the muscles around the joints, which protect and support them. Avoid high-impact activities like running or jogging and do more low-impact activities like swimming and cycling. Take it easy when your symptoms are flaring up, as it could increase your discomfort.
If possible, avoid any activities that place strain on your foot and ankle joint or aggravates the symptoms. This refers not only to official exercise but also to movements that are a part of your daily life.
Physical therapy can help you build muscle strength and increase the flexibility and mobility or range of motion in your joints. Instead of you winging it and trying to figure out which exercises are best for you, a physical therapist can create custom exercise plans specific to your needs, vulnerabilities, and limitations.
Maintain a Healthy Body Weight
Excess body weight places more strain on your joints – especially your feet and ankles. When you stand or walk, your feet and ankle joints carry all of your body weight. These are relatively small joints and can experience stress easily. Losing even a small amount of weight can help alleviate the stress placed on your feet and ankles during everyday activities.
Make Some Lifestyle Changes
Limiting activities that put pressure and strain on the affected joints could help you manage the symptoms. But seriously, one needs to walk. Using aids like canes or walkers can help reduce the amount of stress and pressure you put on your arthritic joints. Allow the cane to take some of your body weight and stress off your feet.
Rest when your body needs it. This is especially important when your symptoms are flaring up. Get enough sleep to allow your body to rest and restore itself. At least 6 to 8 hours of sleep each night is recommended.
Quit smoking as this can increase both the risk of getting arthritis and the severity of your symptoms.
Stress less if you can. Stress can cause inflammation and flare-ups. Incorporate relaxation techniques into your daily routine. This could include anything from meditating to taking a nap – whatever works for you.
See a Podiatrist
A podiatrist is a specialist that focuses on feet – a foot doctor if you will. They can advise you on treatments to help you manage your foot arthritis symptoms. Treatments could include binding your feet for short amounts of time to keep them immobile and allowing the joints to rest and heal. Your podiatrist could also make recommendations for padding, shields, or insoles that you can use to ease the pressure and friction on your feet caused by your shoes. Treating other foot-related ailments like ingrown toenails, hard skin, and corns is a part of a podiatrist's job too.
Foot Arthritis and Shoes
The shoes you wear can make arthritis symptoms in your hips, knees, ankles, and feet worse. Custom-made, supportive shoes, or orthotics (shoe inserts) that help reduce the amount of pressure placed on your foot and ankle joints when you walk can go a long way in helping to reduce your arthritic foot pain. You could even combine supportive shoes with foot and ankle braces for added stability.
When you suffer from arthritic foot pain, some shoes are definitely not your friend. High heels, low heels, and loose-fitting flip flops are all shoes to avoid when you have arthritic feet.
We know, we also love a nice stiletto heel, but high heels – higher than about 2 inches – are super stressful for your feet. Because your heel is elevated, your foot's arch and ball are forced to carry most of your body weight. This could lead to increased wear and tear on the joints – especially in your toes. If you cannot part with high heels, look for a shoe that offers support for your whole foot.
Like high heels, but you know, lower. These are a bit better for your feet than high heels, but could still give you discomfort, especially if you already experience arthritic pain. When looking for low heels, opt for shoes with rubber soles, wedge heels, and toe areas that provide enough room for your feet to be comfortable. This helps give you more stability, absorbs shock and reduces the amount of stress that you place on specific areas in your feet as your weight is more evenly distributed.
Your feet take on the shape of whatever shoe you are wearing. Wearing shoes with super pointy toes – you know the ones that we are talking about – can cause deformities and hammertoes. If you have arthritis in your feet, you're especially vulnerable to this. Hammertoe is a complication of rheumatoid arthritis and could also be seen in psoriatic arthritis. Shoes with wide toe boxes (that's the front part where your toes are) give your toes more space to fit comfortably.
Flip-flops and sandals generally have very little support. Less support means more risk of placing stress on or injuring your feet. Shoes that are too loose on your feet offer less stability and increase the risk of falling – especially if your feet are already vulnerable. When buying flip-flops or sandals, look for ones with several straps that will let you adjust the shoe's fit.
Ideally, the shoe should have a strap around the back of your ankle – yes, that does kind of eliminate flip-flops as we know it. Shoes that are flipping and flopping require your toes to hold on to them. This toe-grip places more strain on your toes than you want to, especially when you already have pain and inflammation in the area. Other than that, make sure the shoe fits comfortably and that none of the straps might irritate a vulnerable part of your foot.
When looking for a good shoe for arthritic feet, comfort and support are vital features. You might also want a shoe that reduces the impact on your feet and other joints. You could achieve this with orthotics. Orthotics are insoles that you put in your shoes. They are designed to help restore your gait and the natural movements of your feet. Orthotics that are custom-made or specifically form around your foot can help reduce arthritis pain, increase the lengths of your steps and strides, and reduce the amount of energy you use while walking.
Our KURUULTIMATE INSOLES™ uses the body heat from your feet to mold around your feet – creating a custom shoe that feels as if it was specially designed just for you. More than that, our KURUSOLE hugs your feet, giving you just the right support where you need it the most.
Arthritic feet can be uncomfortable at best. Taking care of your feet is vital to prevent the development of arthritis in your foot joints. Foot care is even more important if you have painful foot joints caused by arthritis. Natural home remedies can help alleviate foot pain caused by arthritis. While pain management is vital, it is equally important to place as little stress on the joints in your feet and ankles - and for that, KURU shoes can help!