Say “arthritis” and most people think of a retired football player with bum knees or an elderly woman rubbing her sore shoulder in an Advil commercial. Yet arthritis can affect just about any joint, of which you may be surprised to learn the foot has a total of 33. Of the hundreds of different types of arthritis, the three most likely to affect a foot or ankle joint, are:
- Osteoarthritis, known as the "wear-and-tear" arthritis, occurs from age or overuse and is a deterioration of the cartilage or lining that cushions joints.
- Rheumatoid Arthritis, is an autoimmune disease that destroys the lining of the membranes that surround the joints.
- Post-Traumatic Arthritis, is osteoarthritis precipitated by an early injury such as breaking a foot while playing soccer in high school.
The symptoms of all three are more or less the same: inflammation, swelling, and pain that eventually can cause a lack of mobility and difficulty walking.
At Central Massachusetts Podiatry we always seek to manage arthritis pain with nonsurgical methods, such as: medication (including steroids and painkillers), physical and occupational therapy, massage or orthopedic shoes. However, if these are ineffective, surgery will be recommended.
Any of three surgical approaches may be used. These are:
- Arthroscopic debridement. This is a minimally invasive procedure used to remove loose, excess cartilage and inflamed tissue from the ankle joint. If the arthritis is in the early stages, the physician can remove damaged tissue through a small incision or arthroscopically.
- Joint fusion.For more advanced cases, the damaged joint can be removed and the bones fuses on each side fused together with metal screws and plates.
- Joint replacement.This entails replacing the damaged joint with an implant made of metal and plastic or with bone and cartilage from a donor.
Surgery is extremely effective in relieving arthritic joint pain, although healing takes time, anywhere from 4-9 months for a complete recovery. After surgery, you’ll likely have a cast to limit movement. Once the cast is removed, you may be advised to undergo physical therapy to regain strength in your foot or ankle and to restore range of motion.