Years of erosion and constant use can turn rough wood and even stone into a smooth and polished surface. You see this in homes with old wooden floors and ruins with stone steps. Time and stress wear down just about everything. The same is true for your body, including your bones. That’s when you develop problems like arthritis.
Arthritis is the inflammation of one or more joints in your body. It is a chronic condition that deteriorates the soft tissues and even hard bones in the lower limbs. Around each of your joints, you have a variety of protective layers to make movement easier. This includes a smooth cartilage cap on the ends of your bones, so the hard tissue doesn’t grind together. Arthritis slowly destroys this protective layer and inflames the surrounding tissue.
Eventually this leads to the hard bones rubbing against each other. This stiffens the joints and makes normal movement very painful. It can affect any joint in the body, but the ones in your feet and toes are particularly susceptible, since they spend your life under high levels of pressure and stress.
Types of Joint Breakdown
Arthritis is actually a general term that describes a category of conditions. Many, many specific types exist. There are a few that are particularly common in the feet and ankles: osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, post-traumatic arthritis, and gout.
- Osteoarthritis – This is one of the most common kinds of joint damage. Overuse and general wear over time slowly degenerate the cartilage, allowing the hard bone to grind together. This causes inflammation, stiffness, and pain.
- Rheumatoid arthritis – This is actually an autoimmune disease. For reasons no one really understands, the body starts to attack the protective layers around a joint, destroying them. Given enough time, this condition can severely deform the lower limbs.
- Post-traumatic arthritis– This develops after an injury. The damage hurts the joint and encourages the protective cartilage to wear away. It may be years before you feel the effects, though.
- Gout – This unusual form of arthritis develops when you have an abnormal build-up of uric acid crystals in your blood. The sharp crystals collect in joint spaces, often the toes, and scrape away at the protective tissues. The pain flares up periodically in what’s called a “gout attack.”
Managing the Stiffened Feet
Unfortunately, you can’t reverse arthritis. Once it develops in your joints, it is something you have to live with. That doesn’t mean, however, that you can’t do anything about the tissue damage or the pain. You certainly can manage it—and if you want to maintain mobility and an active lifestyle, you have to do so. Our team at Carolina Podiatry Group will help diagnose the problem and establish a plan to treat and control the disease.
First and foremost, you need to reduce the strain on your joints. This may mean changing your activities from high-impact to low-impact, losing weight, and adjusting your eating habits. Most likely you’ll need some kind of physical therapy or other activity to help maintain your range of motion and improve joint strength so your lower limbs are better supported. Shoe changes and possiblywill be important as well to stabilize and cushion the lower limbs. Severe cases may need braces. We might also recommend anti-inflammatory medication to help with the pain.
Arthritis isn’t something you can “cure,” but it is something you can manage. The key is to deal with the problem early and take steps to both alleviate pain and prevent additional damage. Don’t wait until you’re limping around to get help for your condition. Let us help you maintain your foot strength and mobility. Make an appointment at our South Carolina offices through our website, or by calling: (803) 285-1411 for our Lancaster office, or (803) 548-FEET for our Indian Land location.