According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 52.5 million adults in our country have been diagnosed as having some form of arthritis. Arthritis is literally defined as “joint inflammation,” and, given that each foot and ankle has 33 different joints, it is easy to see how this can be a major problem for the lower appendages. The good news is that Advanced Foot and Ankle can provide the care you need if you suffer from joint pain and stiffness.
Arthritis is sometimes placed in a single category, but it is actually a catch-all term of sorts that refers to any of over 100 different conditions. Some are more common than others, including:
- Osteoarthritis (OA). When people hear the word “arthritis,” this is the specific condition they are usually thinking about. OA is the “wear and tear” version that happens over time as joint linings break down through natural causes. The older population tends to be most affected by this arthritic condition.
- Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). Whereas osteoarthritis simply happens over time, rheumatoid arthritis is an aggressive autoimmune disorder wherein the body’s natural defense mechanisms begin attacking the tissues that line the joints. At this time, medical experts are unsure as to why it happens, but RA can lead to pain, swelling, joint erosion, and even deformity.
- Gout. It might be easy to think about how dietary choices affect our health and well-being in the context of weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels, but food also plays a major in this particular form of arthritis. More specifically, the body produces a byproduct called uric acid while breaking down food. When excessive amounts are produced, or the body doesn’t flush uric acid properly, it builds up in joints and crystallizes. The sharp crystal points cause intense pain—usually at the base of the big toe—during gout flares.
Naturally, the symptoms of arthritis do have some commonalities, particularly inflammation and pain in joints, but there are also some key differences as well. For example, rheumatoid arthritis can also cause fatigue, fever, and weight loss.
Gout can develop in other areas, but most often affects the metatarsophalangeal joint (where the big toe connects to the foot) and brings painful flares. The gout flares are most likely to happen at night and can be so intense that even a light bed sheet on the affected area can be quite painful.
Exercise and Arthritis
When arthritis pain makes it difficult to even walk around the house, it might seem as though exercise is an impossible task. The reality of the situation, though, is that exercise is not impossible – it’s necessary. Physical activity is one of the top treatment methods for arthritic conditions, delivering several key benefits. These include stronger muscles that are better able to support the joints, improved range of motion, greater flexibility, and even a healthy body weight, which places less pressure on the affected foot and ankle joints.
Some of the best exercises for arthritis include walking, swimming, yoga, and even weight lifting. When starting an exercise program, it is essential to begin at an easy level and then slowly build up levels of duration and intensity over time. Dr. Wettstein and the staff here at Advanced Foot and Ankle can help you create a workout program that helps relieve arthritis symptoms.
As previously mentioned, exercise is a valuable tool in the fight against arthritis, but there are certainly other treatment methods that are used to address the problem. Treatment will depend on the arthritic condition and its severity, and can include:
- Medication. There are many medications that can provide relief from arthritis pain and inflammation. Our office will prescribe a dosage and type that works best for you.
- Orthotic devices and braces. These kinds of instruments can immobilize and support affected joints, taking pressure off of them.
- Surgery. We will exhaust conservative care methods first, but surgical procedures like ankle fusions or replacements might be recommended for severe cases.
Professional Arthritis Care at Advanced Foot and Ankle
When an arthritic condition is causing pain or impairing functionality, you may need professional care. In such a case, our medical specialists here at Advanced Foot and Ankle are ready to help. Call our Twin Falls, ID office at (208) 731-6321 for more information or schedule an appointment online today to come in and see Dr. Wettstein.