by Dr. Emily Splichal, DPM MS
The pain and stiffness you feel in your feet and ankles, especially those first few steps in the morning, could be the early signs of arthritis. With over 1% of the world population affected by foot and ankle arthritis, this nagging pain can make it difficult to walk, lunge and even climb stairs.
Arthritis is a broad term for a number of conditions that destroy the cartilage or joint surfaces, leading to joint space narrowing and spurring.
Common Types of Arthritis
There are several different types of arthritis, with the most common types being osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative joint disease (DJD), is a wearing down of joint cartilage due to improper mechanics, repetitive movements and excess joint stress. In the foot, the most common joints affected DJD include the ankle, midfoot or talonavicular joint and the great toe joint.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory condition which causes irritation of the joint lining and osteopenia at the joint surfaces. The combination of inflammation and osteopenia can lead to joint malformation and dislocations, with the toes most affected in the foot.
Symptoms of Arthritis
Regardless of the type of arthritis, the most common symptoms include pain and stiffness, with symptoms being the greatest first thing in the morning or after a period of rest. Unlike arthritis in other joints in the body, the foot and ankle are stressed with every step we take making the simple act of walking quite painful for those with arthritis.
Reducing joint stress, managing pain and controlling inflammation are some of the most common treatment recommendations for those with foot and ankle arthritis. While NSAIDs and steroid injections are common short-term solutions, they have been shown to have side effects if used long term.Long term management of foot and ankle arthritis is best approached holistically which can include a low inflammation diet, maintaining a healthy body weight, sufficient sleep and natural pain management solutions, like systemic enzyme therapies.