Our feet provide fundamental support for our bodies, with the ankle being one a pivotal weight-bearing joint. If you suffer from osteoarthritis (OA) in the ankle, this can materially affect your mobility, not only for walking, running and cardiovascular exercise, but also something as simple as standing.
Being a degenerative condition, OA worsens overtime without sufficient management of symptoms, meaning that the muscles and cartilage surrounding the ankle are likely to become much weaker, affecting support, shock-absorption and even balance. In addition to the ankles, joints in the foot can be affected by OA, such as the toes. The more joints that are affected, the more pain you are likely to experience. If you notice signs of any of the below OA-related problems in the feet, seek additional advice from your GP, specialist, or physiotherapist as soon as possible.
Calluses / corns: these are quite common and are caused by unusual pressure or friction that you may be experiencing as a result of any swelling caused by your OA. They present as small hard lumps or rough patches of skin. If left untreated, these can progress into bunions (referenced below).
Hallux rigidus: in moderate to severe cases of OA of the foot, particularly where symptoms are not managed, cartilage can completely wear away. If consequent fusing of the big toe happens, hallux rigidus can increase pain, cause mobility issues and even result in bone growths/deformations.
Both of the aforementioned complications with OA in the foot can also cause painful lumps called bunions, further adding to pain and compromised mobility.
You may find the below tips helpful in managing complicated cases of osteoarthritis in the feet or ankles:
Consult a podiatrist
Podiatrists are medical professionals whose field of expertise are in the feet. They can advise a tailored foot care plan and advise on appropriate, supportive footwear. In some cases, insoles, inserts or orthotics may be offered if deemed beneficial to you condition.
Focus on exercises which don’t overstrain the feet, such as simple stretches to improve range of motion. Hydrotherapy or aquatic exercise is also beneficial, as the buoyancy reduces pressure around these joints.
Diet & Supplementation
Diet is key, as it can serve as a triple-headed spear to promote a healthy weight, cartilage and combat inflammation all in one.
As a high-level guideline, the Mediterranean diet is a good staple, incorporating high-omega 3 fatty acids to target inflammation, as well as vegetables packed with nutrients to promote healthy cartilage. Remember to consume a healthy amount of calories to maintain a healthy weight and not add undue stress on the joints in the feet. Supplementation is also a great way to introduce nutraceuticals to promote a healthy cartilage, muscle, and bone, which you may not get directly from your diet.
Looking after your feet is relatively straightforward if you adopt some of these basic principles. Remember that the more you address concerns now, the more likely you are to avoid serious complications further down the line!