Wherever two bones meet is called a joint. Moving joints are what allow you to bend, straighten, flex, and push off the ground to walk, so they are vital for your mobility and independence. Like moving parts in a machine, joints need protective and lubricating substances between the bones to reduce friction and allow each part to move smoothly. Cartilage caps and cushioning pouches of fluids serve this purpose. They protect the bones as you move around, so you don’t feel pain while performing normal daily motions, like taking a step.
Sometimes, however, joints deteriorate. They sustain damage from injuries, get infected, or simply wear out after years of pounding and overuse. This leads to inflammation, often causing joint breakdown. Bone grinds on bone, deteriorating all the tissues. This is arthritis. The condition is actually a general term for a couple of different diseases. All of them are progressive, and all can take a serious toll on your mobility. In your feet, any of the bones can develop arthritic damage, though the big toe and the ankle are particularly vulnerable.
There are several types of arthritis in the feet and ankles. The main ones include:
Osteoarthritis – This is a “wear and tear” disease that develops over years of repeated stress and use. Slowly the overuse causes the cartilage to deteriorate, allowing the bone tissue underneath to grind directly on bone. The friction causes increasing pain and irritation. It also makes movement more difficult. The more the bones rub together, the worse the problem becomes.
Rheumatoid Arthritis – This is actually an autoimmune disease. For unknown reasons, the body begins to attack its own tissues around and in a joint. This creates inflammation, swelling, and stiffness, but it can also dramatically deform the lower limbs.
Post-traumatic Arthritis – This disease develops after a serious injury that damaged the bones in a joint, like a fracture, dislocation, or major sprain. The injury disrupts the tissue and creates inflammation. This damages the structures even more. Even if the injury heals, the protective surfaces over your bones are more likely to allow grinding.
Alleviating Stiffness to Maintain Your Mobility
There are many conservative ways to manage arthritic changes in your feet and ankles. Our specialists will need to examine your feet to determine how extensive the damage is as well as what might have caused it. Then we can begin treatment tailored to meet your lower limb needs.
Most foot care for arthritis is conservative. You may need to make changes to your shoes and wear more supportive, cushioned styles. These can help reduce pressure and impact on your lower limbs. Orthotics can correct faulty biomechanics as well. Advanced cases may need a brace to stabilize or limit mobility in a painful foot. Physical therapy can help you maintain your range of motion and regain some foot strength, alleviating discomfort. We may recommend medication as well, or even direct injections of anti-inflammatories. If your condition is persistently painful and progressing, you may need surgery to correct the damage.
Don’t wait until you can’t walk to seek help for joint pain. Let our experts at Gulf South Foot & Ankle, LLC, help you. Call us or use our online form to request an appointment today.