How Does Arthritis Affect Feet and Ankles?
If you experience persistent pain and swelling in your joints, you likely suffer from arthritis. When you have this ailment, your cartilage has a diminished capacity to perform its intended function, which is to prevent your bones from grinding directly on each other. This accounts for the pain and stiffness that you feel, especially in any of your body’s many joints.
The term “arthritis” is actually a bit of a catch-all for inflammation in a joint and can refer to any of a couple different arthritic conditions, which include:
Osteoarthritis – The most common form of arthritis, this is the “wear and tear” variety that stems from cartilage breakdown in the joints. The bones that comprise a joint are covered at the ends with a hard, slippery tissue (cartilage) that assists with movement. When the tissue breaks down, the resulting situation is similar to an unoiled hinge.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) – Instead of your body breaking down over time, this is a matter of your body actually attacking itself. In this autoimmune disorder, your immune system mistakes the lining of your joints for an internal threat.
Gout – Unlike the other variations, this complex form of arthritis is affected by your diet. It happens when there is an accumulation of urate crystals in one of your joints, often where the big toe meets the foot. Certain foods contain substances known as purines and when your body breaks them down, the resulting byproduct is uric acid. This acid is typically dissolved and passed through your kidneys, but if your body produces too much, it can build up and form those urate crystals.
Post-traumatic arthritis – This arthritic condition develops following a dislocation or fracture, particularly when a joint becomes injured. It may take years for this arthritis to emerge and it doesn’t matter if the injury was properly treated – hormones secreted within the body are what ultimately cause it.
How is Arthritis Treated?
Arthritis treatment is centered on reducing pain and improving mobility in affected joints. Given that these conditions can make movement difficult, it may seem counterintuitive to suggest that physical therapy can help, but this is a good place to begin treatment. The appropriate exercises can strengthen muscles that surround and support joints, while also improving range of motion.
There are a variety of medications that we will either recommend or prescribe to assist with your condition. Some of these include analgesics, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs, and corticosteroids.
If conservative treatment is ineffective, we may recommend either joint fusion or replacement.
Can I Exercise with Arthritis in a Foot or Ankle?
In this day and age, we know that exercise is a vital component of fighting back against a wide range of illness and medical conditions. Arthritis is one of those conditions and it does not take much to begin seeing benefit. Exercising with arthritis will allow your body to strengthen the muscles around joints, maintain bone strength, and make it easier to have deep, refreshing sleep at night.
As long as you stay active and move around on a daily basis, you will likely benefit, but arthritis exercises should serve to accomplish a couple of specific objectives. These objectives can be defined as:
Build strength so that your muscles can provide greater support to joints and reduce the amount of stress that they experience.
Increase flexibility, which leads to improved joint function, better posture, and lessened risk of injury. Range-of-motion exercises can help reduce stiffness the day after a workout.
Improve cardiorespiratory conditioning and improve overall fitness. This will allow you to control your weight, have a better mood, have more stamina during the day, and sleep better at night.
Have a greater sense of body control through the use of exercises that promote balance, coordination, relaxation, and posture.
With regards to specific workouts, you have options and it is a good idea to mix them up. Weight training is a great way of building muscle strength. When doing so, make sure to start with lighter weights and slowly build up. Walking is a vastly underrated form of exercise and will provide a good, low-impact workout. Another low-impact workout that offers a lot of benefit is swimming. Swimming will allow you to strengthen muscles, improve your cardiorespiratory conditioning, and increase your flexibility, if done correctly. Speaking of flexibility, yoga is actually a fantastic way of exercising with arthritis.
Exercise fights the detrimental effects of arthritis, but there may be times when you need expert treatment and care. In those times, Premier Podiatry Group is here for you. Contact us by calling (814) 472-2660 or connect with our office online. Let our medical team help you get relief from foot and ankle issues today!
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