If you have been diagnosed with arthritis or joint inflammation, you know all too well the pain associated with the disease. There are several types of arthritis, but the most common form is osteoarthritis, or “wear-and-tear” arthritis. Also referred to as degenerative joint disease, it’s the breakdown of cartilage that cushions the ends of the bones where they meet to form joints. This breakdown causes the bones to rub against each other, causing pain, stiffness, and loss of movement in the joint.
In the foot, osteoarthritis can affect any joint. Symptoms associated with osteoarthritis are tenderness or pain, stiffness in the joint, swelling in the joint, and reduced ability to move, walk, or bear weight. Proper diagnosis, early treatment, and pain management are all key factors in preventing joint deformity and disability.
Treatment entails taking medications for arthritis management. These medications include analgesics and NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) to provide pain relief and reduce inflammation. Analgesic medications are commonly sold over the counter as Tylenol or acetaminophen. Acetaminophen is most effective fo mild to moderate pain. NSAIDs have anti-inflammatory, painkilling, and fever-reducing properties. Some common NSAIDs include aspirin, ibuprofen (e.g., Motrin and Advil), naproxen, and prescription medications such as Celebrex.
Experts are divided over the role of acetaminophen versus NSAIDs. Both are commonly prescribed for osteoarthritis and both are equally effective for pain relief. Factors to consider when choosing either analgesics or NSAIDs include cost, risks, and personal preference.
Other treatment options include steroid medications, pads or arch supports, inserts that support the ankle and foot, physical therapy, custom orthotics, and surgery.
Here are a few foot care tips to consider for arthritis management:
- Wear shoes that fit properly and feel comfortable
- Wear shoes with more cushioning and rubber soles
- Perform exercises to help keep your feet pain-free, flexible, and strong:
- Achilles stretch – With your palms flat on a wall, lean against the wall and place one foot forward and one foot back. Lean forward, leaving your heels on the floor. Repeat 3 times, holding for 10 seconds on each side.
- Toe pull – Place a thick rubber band around the toes of each foot, and then spread your toes. Hold this position for five seconds and repeat 10 more times.
- Toe curl – Pick up marbles or any small objects with your toes.
Consult Dr. LeBlanc to determine the best course of treatment for foot and ankle osteoarthritis.