12 Aug All About Arthritis: Symptoms, Types, Treatment
Did you know that approximately 3.85 million Australians have arthritis? That’s 1 in 5 people. So, what exactly is arthritis? In simple terms, it’s the swelling, inflammation and stiffness of the joints that often gets worse with age. Each foot has 33 joints, making our feet particularly susceptible to this condition. Arthritic feet can result in loss of mobility and independence, but early diagnosis and proper medical care can help significantly.
Early Signs of Arthritis
- Pain right at the joint itself (most commonly in the knee, hip, spine or big toe)
- Swelling around the joint
- Pain, swelling discomfort or stiffness (which may increase when active)
The difference between Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. It occurs when the cartilage that cushions the ends of bones in your joints gradually deteriorates. Eventually, if the cartilage wears down completely, bone will rub on bone. Pain in the joints of the hands, neck, lower back, knees or hips are common symptoms. Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease that worsens over time, often resulting in chronic pain.
Osteoarthritis is more prevalent in older adults and often develops if you are overweight, have diabetes or gout, have joint deformities or have experienced injuries to your joints. Increasing obesity rates in developed nations has resulted in an alarming rise in patients with knee osteoarthritis. Unfortunately, there is no cure for osteoarthritis – it can last a lifetime. The best treatment is managing the symptoms by staying active, maintaining a healthy weight and getting treatment to slow the progression of the disease.
Osteoarthritis can be treated by correcting any faulty mechanics that lead to the joint not moving properly. Our podiatrists at footinjuryclinic can make custom orthotics to make sure that the foot and ankle joints are properly aligned.
Rheumatoid arthritis, on the other hand, is an autoimmune condition where a rheumatoid factor in your blood causes inflammation in your joints. If you have rheumatoid arthritis, your body interprets the soft lining around your joints as a threat, similar to a virus or bacteria, and attacks it. Your immune system mistakes the soft lining around joints (including the synovial fluid) to be a threat to the body, causing it to attack that area. As the immune system launches its assault, fluid buildup within the joint occurs, causing stiffness, pain, swelling, and inflammation. This attack causes fluid to accumulate within your joint leading to swelling, stiffness and pain. Rheumatoid arthritis can develop at any age and seems to have a genetic predisposition i.e. you have a higher chance of developing the condition if a parent, child, or sibling has it.
Can Arthritis be treated?
There are many different types of arthritis that can affect the knees and feet, and each is treated slightly differently. However early diagnosis and intervention are key for any effective treatment. The goal in the treatment of arthritis is controlling inflammation and reducing pain, preserving joint function (or restoring it if it has been lost), and minimising damage to your joints.
First-line treatments to manage arthritis
- Exercise (on land and in water)
- Weight management
- Self-management programs such as hot or cold packs, depending how acute or chronic the pain is
- Medications like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs e.g. Panadol Osteo (speak to your doctor re: contra indications)
- Physiotherapy to manage pain. Your physiotherapist may improve range, quality and direction of movements in your effected joints
- Last, but not least, if conservative management and treatment has not worked, speak to your podiatrist about surgical intervention which may include a corticosteroid injection into or around the effected area
Our very own podiatrist Russel Rubin collaborated with Prof. Hylton B Menz to pioneer research on medial compartment osteoarthritis in the Journal of the American Podiatric Medical Association in 2005. Their study indicated that laterally wedged foot orthoses may be beneficial in the treatment of mild to moderate osteoarthritis of the medial compartment of the knee. To read the research, click here.
Want to know more?
- Listen to the podcast called ‘Joint Action’ by David Hunter.
- Head to https://www.footinjuryclinic.com/conditions/arthritis/
- Call our clinics to book an appointment with our podiatrists: