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What is osteoarthritis of the foot?



Osteoarthritis of the foot is a degenerative joint disease and can cause pain, especially on movement of the foot.

There are many small bones and joints in the foot and there is cartilage at the end of these bones where the joints are. The cartilage cushions and protects the bones and it is this cartilage that degenerates and breaks down. This means the bones can rub against each other and this is what causes the pain.

How does osteoarthritis of the foot happen?



There can be several causes for osteoarthritis of the foot. These can include:
  • Mechanical wear and tear of the joints can cause the cartilage to break down. This is the most common cause of osteoarthritis of the foot and can occur with long-term use with age, or from over-use from frequent activity
  • Injuries such as fractures or severe sprains can occasionally cause osteoarthritis
  • Biomechanical problems in the foot such as flat feet or high arches can cause osteoarthritis

What are the symptoms of osteoarthritis of the foot?



The symptoms of osteoarthritis of the foot have a gradual onset and are likely to worsen on activity such as walking long distances. Symptoms can include:
  • Pain and stiffness in the foot
  • Reduced range of movement in the foot
  • Swelling of the affected joint or joints
  • Difficulty walking
  • Bony spurs on the foot

What should I do if I have osteoarthritis of the foot?



If you have or suspect you have osteoarthritis of the foot, you should consult a physiotherapist as they may be able to restore some function to the foot. It is important to keep the foot moving to try and maintain some movement. This can be done in sitting by circling the ankle and wiggling the toes regularly.

If the problem is acute (recent) and there is some swelling then you can try applying ice to the foot using a bag of frozen peas or crushed ice wrapped in a damp cloth for 15–20 minutes over the foot every 1–2 hours. Alternatively, if the problem is chronic (long term), then you can try using heat such as a hot water bottle over the foot. Make sure to put a towel between the heat and the skin to prevent possible burning.


What shouldn’t I do if I have osteoarthritis of the foot?



If you have or suspect you have osteoarthritis of the foot, you should try and avoid activities that put large loads through the ankle such as walking long distances.


Physiotherapy treatment for osteoarthritis of the foot.



Physiotherapy can help to improve osteoarthritis of the foot. There are several treatments that can be used to achieve this. Treatment can include:
  • Range of movement exercises to increase movement in the foot
  • Strengthening exercises to improve stability of the foot
  • Orthotics (insoles or braces) to help support the foot
  • Education on footwear and activity

Could there be any long-term effects from osteoarthritis of the foot?



Osteoarthritis of the foot cannot be healed completely and is a permanent condition. However physiotherapy can help to reduce pain and increase movement so that as much function as possible is restored. In some cases the condition is too severe for physiotherapy to treat so surgery may be needed. This would involve either removing some of the damaged cartilage, fusing some joints or replacing joints.

Please call Physio.co.uk on 0330 088 7800 to arrange an appointment or book online today.


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