Learn About Your Options for Treating Toe and Ankle Arthritis

Apr 01, 2023
Learn About Your Options for Treating Toe and Ankle Arthritis
People often associate arthritis pain with the hips and knees. However, the joints in our feet and ankles are also highly vulnerable to this condition. Keep reading to learn more.

We expect a lot of our feet and ankles, from standing and walking to running and dancing. And it’s all possible because of the ankle joint and the more than 30 joints in the foot. Together, they make a wide range of movement possible. However, that also means they can fall victim to a very common problem — arthritis.

Technically, there are more than 100 types of arthritis, and many of them can impact your toes, feet, and ankles. While each form may be a little different, they all lead to inflammation in a joint, causing stiffness and pain. And as you might expect, having this problem in your feet and ankles can significantly impair your ability to walk and engage in activities you love.

But that doesn’t mean you resign yourself to sitting on the sidelines.

At Align Foot & Ankle Center in Camarillo and Santa Barbara, California, our talented podiatrists and foot and ankle surgeons offer numerous options for treating arthritis in the toes, feet, and ankles. Is joint pain slowing you down? Here’s how Hai-En Peng, DPM, FACFAS can help.

The problem with arthritis

Arthritis can develop in a joint for a variety of reasons. In many cases, it’s due to degeneration or “wear and tear” on a specific part of the body. However, it can also occur because of autoimmune diseases or after sustaining a foot or ankle injury.

Arthritis may come in different forms, but symptoms typically begin when the cushioning tissue — cartilage — or lubricating fluid in a joint starts to disappear. These substances help bones move smoothly against each other during movement. As they decrease, the bones begin rubbing against each other, which causes additional joint degeneration to occur and arthritis symptoms to develop.

Common signs of arthritis in the toes, feet, and ankles include:

  • Joint tenderness, swelling, numbness, redness, and warmth
  • Limited range of motion
  • Pain with motion, especially during vigorous activity
  • Symptoms that worsen in the morning or after periods of rest
  • Tenderness with pressure
  • Visual abnormalities, such as joints that move out of position and form a bunion

These symptoms can also make it difficult to walk or engage in other activities that involve being on your feet.

Diagnosing and treating arthritis in the toes, feet, and ankles

Dr. Peng diagnoses arthritis by reviewing your medical history and examining your feet and ankles. Sometimes, they also order diagnostic testing, such as X-rays, to evaluate your bones, joints, and cartilage. These tests can also confirm specific arthritis conditions, such as osteoarthritis, gout, and rheumatoid arthritis.

Once our podiatrists reach a diagnosis, they can make personalized treatment recommendations to get you back on your feet. Whenever possible, Dr. Peng and Dr. Mehr take conservative approaches first, such as the following:

  • Dietary changes and weight management
  • Custom-made orthotics, braces, or ankle supports
  • Assistive devices, such as canes, to reduce stress on the affected area
  • Cold and heat therapy
  • Physical therapy
  • Shockwave therapy
  • Multiwave locked system (MLS) laser therapy
  • Cortisone injections

Dr. Peng also provides sports medicine services that help active people, including athletes, address foot- and ankle-related injuries associated with specific activities. However, if your symptoms don’t respond to these approaches or worsen, they may recommend surgery. 

Surgery for toe, foot, and ankle arthritis

Just like there are numerous forms of arthritis, there are multiple surgical treatments that can relieve symptoms. For example, Dr. Peng may recommend any of the following:

  • Arthroscopic surgery to repair joint damage
  • Fusion surgery to stabilize the joint with pins, screws, rods, or plates
  • Joint replacement surgery to replace the damaged ankle joint with an artificial implant

Depending on the severity of your condition and the procedure you undergo, it could take anywhere from 4-9 months to completely recover from toe, foot, or ankle surgery. However, these treatments often provide significant pain relief, which can make it easier for you to engage in daily activities.

Are arthritis symptoms keeping you off your feet? Get the help you need by booking an appointment online or over the phone with Align Foot & Ankle Center today.