Arthritis affects millions of Australians. It is a condition characterized by the damage and eventual breakdown of cartilage in the joints and degeneration of the bones that make up the joints.
At Complete Podiatry, we help hundreds of clients who have arthritis every year to build an amazing life from the feet up.
Understanding your arthritis helps us find a solution
OA is the most common form of arthritis and affects millions of Australians. It is a condition characterized by the damage and eventual breakdown of cartilage in the joints and degeneration of the bones that make up the joints.
In the foot, the disease most frequently occurs in the big toe, although it is also often found in the midfoot, subtalar joint and ankle.
The causes of arthritis
Some of the factors that contribute to the development of OA include:
- Injury and overuse
- Medical conditions
However, for many people though, it's not so much the cause of arthritis that's important, it's how we can help manage your pain and help you continue to live the life you want.
The arthritis pain you feel can be managed
Commonly, one of the first things recommended to most people if OA is suspected is an x-ray.
New research on how we experience pain has stressed that the changes seen in X-rays are not proportional to the degree of pain you may be experiencing.
I have many clients with minimal joint changes who experience significant pain and others with major joint changes who experience no pain at all.
The typical signs of OA you will see on an x-ray include:
- Joint space narrowing - the space between the two bones making up the bone gets smaller
- Sclerosis - this means that the end of the bones in joins can become thicker and harder and is seen by an area of bright white in the x-ray
- Osteophytosis - osteophytes are bone spurs that develop about the joint, usually on the edges of the joint as OA progresses
- Joint erosions - when break down of the bone is seen on X-ray this is called an erosion
- Subchondral cysts - are fluid-filled sacs that form inside of, and extend from, the bone of a joint
This important thing to remember is that these joint changes are not directly correlated to the pain you will feel now and into the long term.
They are also not correlated to your ability to function well with osteoarthritis.
Let us put together a comprehensive plan to help
Now we get to the good part: how your Podiatrist can help manage your OA and keep you doing all the things you love to do.
To manage your OA pain in the feet I usually recommend a combination of conservative options before looking at surgery.
- Weight loss
- Continued Activity
- Oral medications
- Orthotic devices
- Shockwave Therapy.
- Footwear Changes
- Hands-on therapy
- Steroid injection
There are always new treatments being developed and tested that may help in the management of OA in the future. Some of these include:
- synovial fluid replacement with High Molecular Weight Non-Newtonian Fluid has shown some benefits and is being used by some Doctors,
- platelet rich plasma injections are used a fair bit these days however research results on their effectiveness are variable
- stem cell therapy works for a number of clients yet is very expensive and has little research to support its clinical effectiveness yet.
As you can see, there are many options to help manage the pain caused by OA in the foot and ankle. Foot pain from any causes limits your quality of life, increases your risk of falls and generally, just stops you from getting things done.
So the next time someone says your foot pain is ”just arthritis”, come see your Podiatrist and let us help you build an amazing life from the feet up.