What is Osteoarthritis?
Arthritis is the inflammation and tenderness of one or more joints and can lead to pain, stiffness, and erosion of affected areas. While there are multiple types of arthritis, the disorder most common amongst older people is osteoarthritis, and this can usually be found in the big toe joint, ankles, knees, and/or vertebrae.
Osteoarthritis typically begins to develop in patients at around 40-50 years of age and occurs when the cartilage located at various joints begin to thin and wear down. As cartilage serves as a cushion and shock absorber, the reduction in cartilage results in increased friction and erosion, producing painful bone spurs called osteophytes. As the condition degenerates over time due to increased wear and tear, more pain and stiffness will develop. As these symptoms worsen, other issues may develop. Research has shown that those experiencing pain in one lower joint suffer from a 53% increased risk of falling while those with two painful joints are 74% more likely to fall.1 Other negative outcomes include reduced physical activity, muscle weakness, and poorer function.
Symptoms of Osteoarthritis
- Limited range of motion that may improve after movement
- Clicking or cracking sound when joint is bent
- Joint swelling
- Joint stiffness after a period of rest
- Pain in the joint, particularly after activity
How Can Your Podiatrist Help Treat Osteoarthritis?
As there is no cure for arthritis, the main aim of treatment is twofold:
- The management of pain
- The prevention of further damage to the joint
An initial assessment with a podiatrist can help confirm the diagnosis in order to work out an appropriate treatment plan. An x-ray or diagnostic ultrasound may also be carried out to ascertain the degree of articular damage by looking out for narrowed joint spaces (indicating cartilage loss) or bony outgrowths.
Although treatment options such as surgery or medication are available, East Coast Podiatry takes a more conservative non-invasive approach. This may include customising orthotics to provide further support when walking, prescribing appropriate strengthening and stretching exercises, and incorporating medical technologies such as Extracorporeal Magnetotransduction Therapy (EMTT) to help relieve pain. With proper treatment, patients with osteoarthritis can live more comfortable and active lifestyles.