Foot and Ankle Arthritis: Understanding Foot & Ankle Pain and Swelling


Symptoms of Foot Arthritis

Foot and ankle arthritis presents with a variety of symptoms that can significantly affect an individual's comfort and mobility. Persistent pain is a hallmark sign, often exacerbated during weight-bearing activities such as walking or standing. Accompanying this pain is swelling around the affected joints, contributing to discomfort and limited mobility. Stiffness is also common, particularly in the mornings or after periods of inactivity, making movement challenging. Moreover, individuals may notice a decreased range of motion in the affected foot or ankle, hindering their ability to perform daily tasks. In some cases, the development of bone spurs further exacerbates symptoms, causing additional pain and discomfort.

Causes of Foot Arthritis

Understanding the underlying causes of foot arthritis is crucial for effective management. Age-related wear and tear on cartilage are primary contributors, as the cushioning between joints naturally deteriorates over time. Additionally, previous foot injuries, such as fractures or sprains, can predispose individuals to arthritis by disrupting the integrity of the joint structures. Genetic factors also play a significant role, as family history and genetic predispositions may increase the likelihood of developing arthritis. Furthermore, overuse of the foot and ankle joints, often seen in athletes or individuals with physically demanding occupations, can accelerate joint degeneration. Inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis further exacerbate joint inflammation and damage, leading to the onset of foot arthritis.

Conservative Treatments for Foot Arthritis

Managing foot arthritis typically begins with conservative treatments aimed at alleviating symptoms and improving joint function. Medications, including over-the-counter pain relievers and prescription anti-inflammatories, are commonly prescribed to reduce pain and inflammation associated with arthritis. Physical therapy plays a vital role in strengthening muscles, enhancing flexibility, and promoting better joint mobility. Orthotic devices, such as custom shoe inserts or braces, provide additional support and help redistribute pressure away from affected joints. Lifestyle modifications, including weight management and wearing appropriate footwear, can also mitigate symptoms and prevent further joint damage. For individuals with severe mobility issues, assistive devices like canes or walkers offer valuable support and stability.

Surgical Treatments for Foot Arthritis

When conservative measures fail to provide adequate relief, surgical intervention may be necessary to address advanced arthritis symptoms. Arthroscopy, a minimally invasive procedure, allows surgeons to inspect and repair damaged joint tissues through small incisions. Joint fusion, or arthrodesis, involves surgically joining the affected bones to stabilize the joint and alleviate pain. Joint replacement, or arthroplasty, entails removing damaged joint surfaces and replacing them with artificial implants to restore function and reduce pain. Osteotomy may be performed to realign bones and redistribute weight, relieving pressure on arthritic joints. In cases where inflamed synovial tissue exacerbates symptoms, synovectomy may be recommended to remove the affected tissue and reduce pain and inflammation.

In Conclusion

Foot and ankle arthritis poses significant challenges for individuals seeking to maintain an active and pain-free lifestyle. However, with early diagnosis and appropriate treatment, many individuals can effectively manage their symptoms and improve joint function. At the Orthopedic Foot and Ankle Institute, we play a critical role in guiding patients through the complexities of this condition, offering personalized evaluation and treatment recommendations tailored to each individual's needs. If you're experiencing symptoms of foot or ankle arthritis, you can schedule an appointment with one of our highly trained specialists for effective management and improved quality of life. We will get you back on your feet.


Blake Savage, DPM, MPH Blake Savage, DPM, MPH Dr. Blake Savage, DPM, MPH is a podiatrist practicing at Orthopedic Foot & Ankle Institute in Henderson, Nevada. Dr. Savage has received extensive and comprehensive training in all aspects of foot and ankle surgery including reconstruction, limb salvage, trauma, and elective surgery. Having lived in various places across the country during his life, he is happy to now call Las Vegas his home. Dr. Savage attended Brigham Young University in Provo, UT where he obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Russian. He went on to earn his medical degree from the College of Podiatric Medicine and Surgery at Des Moines University in Des Moines, IA. It was at Des Moines University where he pursued his interest in population health as well and concurrently received his Master of Public Health. He further completed a three-year surgical residency in St. Louis, MO before going on and finishing his advanced surgical fellowship training in Roanoke, VA.

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