By Douglas Livingston, DPM, FACFAS

Everyone associates the word arthritis with pain. Arthritis can affect all parts of the body. It is a broad term for many conditions that destroy the workings of a normal joint. Arthritis may occur in your back, neck, hips, knees, shoulders or hands as well as your feet and ankles. It is believed that half the people in their 60s and 70s have arthritis of the foot and or ankle. Luckily most of these people do not experience symptoms.

Arthritis has different types. The most common is osteoarthritis which results from the “wear and tear” damage to joint cartilage that comes with age. As the soft tissue or cartilage between the bones decreases, inflammation, redness, swelling and pain in the joint occurs.

Another type of arthritis is traumatic arthritis which occurs following an injury such as a broken bone, torn ligament or moderate ankle sprain. The site of the injury can remain painful long after the initial injury has healed.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory condition caused by an irritation of the joint lining. People with rheumatoid arthritis usually develop pain in the feet and ankles. Other types of inflammatory arthritis include gout, lupus, ankylosing spondylitis and psoriatic arthritis. All of these can cause pain in the 26 bones and 30 joints of the foot.

Our feet must withstand excessive wear and tear. When our feet hurt we tend to refrain from physical activity which, in turn, makes arthritis worse. Each person’s treatment is tailored to that person’s needs and can include such modalities as injection therapy, custom made orthoses, physical therapy, and surgical management. The goal of therapy is to help the patient remain active and pain free. 

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