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Arthritis and your feet

A father and adult son sit with the bottoms of their bare feet facing the camera

Arthritis of the feet and ankles can affect every step you take. However, proper treatment can help you cope.

Arthritis can affect joints throughout the body, and your feet—with more than 30 joints each—are by no means off-limits.

Problems such as pain, stiffness, swelling and difficulty walking can stem from arthritis, notes the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. But there are treatment options.

What helps?

The right treatment depends, in part, on the type and severity of the arthritis as well as which joints are affected. For these and other reasons, it's important to get a proper and early diagnosis and to work with your doctor on a treatment plan.

Possible treatments for arthritis of the feet may include:

Medicine. Medicines such as analgesics and anti-inflammatory drugs can help relieve pain and swelling.

Other possible medicines include corticosteroids injected into a joint to ease pain and inflammation and, for rheumatoid arthritis, disease-controlling medicines.

Special footwear. Special pads, arch supports or other shoe inserts can help support or cushion feet and lessen pain.

Some people need special shoes, such as shoes with stiff soles or those that can accommodate toes that have stiffened or curled from rheumatoid arthritis, according to the AAOS.

When arthritis is severe, a molded ankle-foot brace may be needed.

In any case, it's smart to wear comfortable, well-fitting shoes, reports the Arthritis Foundation. Athletic shoes with good padding are often ideal; shoes to avoid include those with high heels and pointed toes.

Weight control. Maintaining a healthy weight helps keep pressure off joints.

Exercise. Your doctor or a physical therapist can help plan an exercise program that, among other things, may improve flexibility and decrease pain.

For example, water-based exercise is easy on weight-bearing joints and may be an option. You can also ask your doctor about helpful stretching exercises for your feet.

Surgery. In some cases, surgery is used to remove bony growths called spurs, fuse bones together to lessen pain, or correct problems such as painful bunions that may occur with arthritis.

The right step

Remember, a variety of treatments can help ease arthritis. But you need to take the first step and seek help. Your doctor can work with you to develop a treatment plan that can keep you on your feet.

Reviewed 9/17/2022

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