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Foot and ankle osteoarthritis

The wear and tear from osteoarthritis can cause swelling, pain and deformity in the feet and ankles.

How does osteoarthritis affect the foot and ankle?

Each foot has 28 bones and more than 30 joints. The following are the most common foot joints affected by osteoarthritis:

  • The joint where the ankle and shinbone meet
  • The three joints of the foot that involve the heel bone, the inner mid-foot bone and the outer mid-foot bone
  • The joint of the big toe and foot bone

What are the symptoms of foot and ankle osteoarthritis?

Symptoms of foot and ankle osteoarthritis often include the following:

  • Tenderness or pain
  • Reduced ability to move or walk
  • Stiffness in the joint
  • Swelling in the joint

How is foot and ankle osteoarthritis diagnosed?

The diagnosis of foot and ankle osteoarthritis will probably involve some of the following:

  • A medical history in which the doctor asks questions about when and where the pain began and closely examines the foot
  • A test called a gait analysis in which the doctor measures your stride and the way you walk
  • X-rays
  • Bone scans
  • Magnetic resonance imaging ( MRI)

How is foot and ankle osteoarthritis treated?

Foot and ankle osteoarthritis can be treated in many ways. Non-surgical methods to treat foot and ankle arthritis include:

  • Painkillers
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce swelling in the joints
  • Steroid medications injected into the joints
  • Pads or arch supports
  • Walking sticks or braces to support the joints
  • Inserts that support the ankle and foot
  • Physiotherapy
  • Nutritional supplements
  • Weight control

Are there any tips about foot care that can help with osteoarthritis?

The most essential element of foot care for people with foot and ankle osteoarthritis is to wear shoes that fit properly and feel comfortable. The following are things to look for in finding a comfortable shoe:

  • Shoes shaped like your foot
  • Shoes that have support, for example no slip-on shoes
  • Rubber soles to provide more cushioning
  • Flexibility
  • Proper fit - ask the shop assistant to help you with this

Exercise can help keep your feet pain-free, strong and flexible. Exercises that can be good for your feet include:

  • Achilles stretch. With your palms flat on a wall, lean against the wall and place one foot forward and one foot back. Lean forwards, leaving your heels on the floor. You can feel the pull in your Achilles tendon and your calf. Repeat this exercise three times, holding for 10 seconds on each repeat.
  • Big-toe stretch. Place a thick elastic band around your big toes. Pull the big toes away from each other and towards the other toes. Hold this position for five seconds and repeat the exercise 10 times.
  • Toe pull. Place an elastic band around the toes of each foot, and then spread your toes. Hold this position for five seconds and repeat the exercise 10 times.
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