Did you have parents who got perturbed when you went back to the fridge too frequently to fetch things, because “you can only open the door so many times before it breaks!”? As ridiculous as this seems applying to refrigerators, there is a kernel of truth to it. A lifetime of use can sometimes take a toll on things; even our bodies. The joints in our feet and ankles is certainly not immune, and the wearing down of their protective elements can cause what we know as osteoarthritis.
The “Wear and Tear” Arthritis
There are many different forms of arthritis, but osteoarthritis might be considered the most “fundamental.” Also known as degenerative arthritis, it causes pain, stiffness, and swelling in joints that have been worn down by time and stress.
A layer of slippery cartilage exists where the two bones of a joint meet, providing cushioning and a place for the bones to glide against. This tissue can eventually break down with age, however, providing less and less protection. The bones may even begin to grind against each other instead.
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of the disease overall, and can commonly develop in the feet and ankles. With each foot containing more than 30 joints, there’s plenty of opportunity for joint pain to settle in. However, we most frequently see the condition around the heel, the big toe, and where the ankle meets the shinbone.
Aside from joint pain, additional symptoms can result based on the severity of the condition. Sometimes a bone spur may develop around the joint, which can in turn cause calluses or blisters as it rubs against the inside of a shoe. Joint movement might also be limited.
Care for Wear
Many cases of osteoarthritis—especially early ones—tend to be treated via conservative, non-surgical methods. A custom-made orthotic can help provide support to the affected joint and relieve much of its pain. Anti-inflammatory drugs can also help reduce swelling and discomfort. In other cases, temporary immobilization of the joint can provide an opportunity for inflammation to go down, and bracing can provide further support. In cases that involve the ankle, physical therapy exercises often prove effective in strengthening the joint and adding needed stability. Once a stable point is found, it might take some changes in lifestyle and activities to maintain one’s level of comfort. This can involve switching from high-impact activities to ones less stressful on the joints, or losing weight to reduce forces on the area.
In more advanced cases, or those where other methods don’t prove helpful, surgery might be considered as an option. The type of procedure performed will depend upon the patients’ condition and needs.Don’t let sore, stiff joints grind your life to a halt. Dr. Sanjay Patel and the staff at Family Foot Care & Surgery can help you find the best ways to care for foot and ankle joints that have already been through a lot. Reach either of our two offices by calling (203) 876-7736 or Milford or (203) 288-4055 for Hamden.