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What is Arthritis in the Foot?

Did you know there are over 100 forms of arthritis, many of which affect the foot and ankle? Odds are, either you or someone you know has arthritis and may not even know it. To put it simply, arthritis as a whole is inflammation of one or more of your joints. It can cause pain and stiffness in any joint in the body and is common in the small joints of the foot and ankle. However, we are a Podiatry office so we will specifically talk about arthritis in the foot and what you need to know about it.

Anatomy of the Feet

As we’ve said before, your feet play an important role in everyday function. During standing, walking, and running, the feet and ankles have a few jobs. They act as support, shock absorption, balance, and several other functions that are essential for motion. There are 28 bones in the foot and more than 30 joints that allow for a wide range of movement. Many of these joints have ends that are covered with articular cartilage which is essentially a slippery substance that helps the bones glide smoothly over each other during movement.

How Do You Get Arthritis?

There are 3 different types of arthritis: Osteoarthritis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, and Posttraumatic Arthritis. Each type of arthritis has a different cause and affects your joints differently.


Osteoarthritis is essentially “wear and tear” arthritis that happens as the cartilage in the joint gradually wears away. This is extremely common in the older population but we do see some younger patients with this as well.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic disease that can affect multiple joints throughout the body and often starts in the foot and ankle. It is symmetrical, meaning that it usually affects the same joint on both sides of the body. Unlike osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease.

Posttraumatic Arthritis

Posttraumatic arthritis can develop after an injury to the foot or ankle. Dislocations and fractures—particularly those that damage the joint surface—are the most common injuries that lead to posttraumatic arthritis.

Is There a Cure For Arthritis?

The good news is the treatment for arthritis is usually nonsurgical. Your Podiatrist will typically start by recommending a few lifestyle changes such as:

  • Minimizing activity that aggregates the affected area

  • Switching from high-impact activities to low-impact activities

  • Losing weight to reduce stress on the joints

Your Podiatrist might also recommend physical therapy, assistive devices, or medications. In some serious cases, the discussion of surgical treatment will take place. However, not everyone requires surgery.

If you have yet to be diagnosed with arthritis and believe you may have one of the three forms of arthritis, make an appointment with us at Total Foot Care. We will begin by running tests for a diagnosis and then develop a treatment plan.

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