What is arthritis?
Arthritis can occur anywhere in the body. Also known as joint wear and tear, this condition occurs when there is a loss of joint cartilage, causing the bones to rub against each other. Over time, the joint will be destroyed and osteophytes (bone spurs) develop. In the lower extremity, the most common areas for arthritis are the ankle joint, subtalar joint (joint below the ankle joint), and first metatarsophalangeal joint (big toe joint).
What causes arthritis?
Arthritis is seen with aging as it is a wear and tear condition. However, it may occur at an earlier age for athletes -- due to high impact activities -- and individuals who had a history of trauma -- post-traumatic arthritis. Abnormal bone and joint alignment can also lead to early arthritis.
How does arthritis present?
Arthritis ranges from an asymptomatic, incidental finding on clinical or radiologic examination to a progressive disabling disorder that can eventually leads to joint failure. The pain is usually worse with affected joint usage and improve with rest. Pain is usually sharp or dull in nature, localizing to the affected joint area.
How does arthritis affect me?
People with arthritic pain often find it hard to perform day-to-day activities as there is pain with every step. Arthritis can also affect your quality of life as it limits one's ability to do physical activities like hiking, walking, or working out. Additionally, if bone spurs occur, it can limit what kind of shoe gear one can wear due to physical deformity it can cause.
What are my options?
Conservative treatments include, but are not limited to, wider shoe gear to accommodate the bone spurs and steroid injections into the joint to reduce the inflammation.
If the pain is in the big toe joint, one can consider custom inserts with Morton's extension to immobilize the big toe joint. This treatment option often can prevent surgeries for years. If pain is in the ankle or subtalar joint, one can consider an ankle brace like Arizona brace or AFO to limit range of motion. These solutions are highly recommended as first line of treatment as it can delayed surgery. Surgical intervention is recommended for patients where the pain became unbearable despite conservative treatment.
If conservative treatment fails, surgical intervention should be considered if the pain is affecting quality of life. Make an appointment today to see what your options are.