Osteoarthritis is a common cause of pain within your foot and ankle that we see in the clinic almost daily, affecting millions of people worldwide. Osteoarthritis occurs when the protective cartilage that cushions the end of your bones wears down, often progressively getting worse over time. Therefore, we often see osteoarthritis in the joints of your hands, knees, and hips but also within the foot and ankle.
Signs of Osteoarthritis
From a foot and ankle perspective, osteoarthritis commonly affects your 1st MTP joint (big toe), ankle joint, midfoot joints, and subtalar joint. Signs and symptoms within these joints may include:
- loss of flexibility and range of motion
- reduced quality of motion within joints
- extra bony growths
Furthermore, colder weather often exacerbates symptoms.
Causes of Osteoarthritis
Osteoarthritis occurs due to trauma to your joints, such as rolling your ankle or stubbing your toes. We often don’t see osteoarthritis until many years after the initial injuries due to the slow onset of minor joint trauma.
Other risk factors include aging, obesity, genetics, bone deformities, and repeated stress on the joint (possibly from jobs or sports that place higher stress on certain joints).
Osteoarthritis within the foot and ankle can often be diagnosed clinically by a Podiatrist by assessing a joint’s pain, range, and quality of motion. The initial stages of conservative treatment will often not warrant any imaging, however, if symptoms persist or are severe then imaging may be considered to identify the severity of the deterioration of a joint. In this case, an x-ray and sometimes even an MRI may be considered to gain a full perspective.
Management of Osteoarthritis
Unfortunately, osteoarthritis is not a curable condition and is a degenerative disease that worsens over time. Ultimately, this can lead to chronic pain. People who come into the clinic for treatment are often in pain and find that their symptoms are inhibiting everyday movements. Management involves reducing symptoms caused by osteoarthritis and improving day to day function of the joints affected.
Based on the location of your pain, there are different management strategies:
1st MTP Joint (big toe joint)
- Strengthening of the muscles surrounding the toe
- Temporary strapping to immobilise the joint
- Joint mobilisation
- Footwear changes (stiff sole, rocker-bottom shoes)
- Orthotics to either immobilise the joint or promote healthy movement onto the big to
Ankle + Subtalar Joint
- Calf stretching and strengthening
- Footwear considerations
- Orthotic therapy
- Intrinsic foot muscle strengthening
If you are suffering from foot/ankle osteoarthritis and would like expert advice, get in touch now. We are open after hours and weekends and are located in Point Cook and Yarraville.