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5 Essential Tips to Manage Foot and Ankle Arthritis

5 Essential Tips to Manage Foot and Ankle Arthritis

There are over 100 different types of arthritis, but the common theme in each condition is joint pain and inflammation. Over 53 million Americans have arthritis — a leading cause of disability in the United States — with osteoarthritis being the most common type.

Arthritis can develop in any joint, including your feet and ankles. That’s where Aamir Mahmood, DPM,  Joseph Wilson, DPM, FACFAS, and the Momentum Foot & Ankle Clinic team come into the picture. As podiatrists and foot and ankle surgeons, we know just how debilitating arthritis can be, so don’t hesitate to reach out if you experience chronic foot or ankle pain.

In the meantime, here are five essential tips to keep in mind as you manage foot and/or ankle arthritis.

1. Choose the right footwear

As with many other foot conditions, the shoes you choose really do matter. Choose shoes that provide proper arch support, cushioning, and stability. Look for designs with a wide toe box to accommodate any joint deformities (such as bunions) and reduce pressure on affected areas. 

Custom orthotic inserts or braces can help deliver additional support and minimize discomfort.

2. Exercise regularly 

Exercise can help with foot and ankle arthritis in two ways:

Exercise helps you maintain a healthy weight

Excess weight can exacerbate pain and increase the load on affected joints. Maintaining a healthy weight is essential in managing arthritis symptoms, especially in weight-bearing joints like your feet and ankles. 

Exercise helps improve range of motion

Exercise helps you maintain a healthy weight, but it also helps with arthritis in another way. Gentle stretches and low-impact exercises help improve the function of your ankle. When you strengthen your ankle, it helps reduce pain, stiffness, and discomfort. 

When exercising, focus on low-impact activities that don’t put additional strain on your feet and ankle joints. Walking, yoga, tai chi, cycling, swimming (including water aerobics), and stretching are all easy on your joints.

3.  Focus on nutrition 

While there isn’t a “magic” diet for arthritis, what you eat can help fight inflammation in your body, and that includes inflammation in your feet and ankles.

Some of the best foods for arthritis (and general anti-inflammation) include:

Fish can be particularly beneficial because it contains omega-3 fatty acids that help lower two inflammatory proteins: C-reactive protein (CRP) and interleukin-6. If you’re not a fan of fish, you don’t have to miss out on omega-3 fatty acids. You can find them in hemp seeds, oysters, enriched eggs, spinach, and supplements.

What you don’t eat is just as important as what you do eat. Avoid (or at least reduce) processed foods, foods high in sugar, red meat, fried foods, and refined carbs. These foods can exacerbate inflammation and make your arthritis symptoms worse.

4. Try cold and hot therapy

Cold and heat therapy can provide relief from arthritis symptoms in your feet and ankles. Apply a cold compress to help reduce inflammation and numb pain after periods of increased activity. For example, a cold compress after a walk around the block might be soothing.

On the other hand, heat therapy, such as warm compresses or baths, can alleviate stiffness and promote relaxation in your feet and ankles. You can also use heat therapy to warm up and combat stiffness before activities. 

You don’t have to choose one or the other. Many people find that alternating hot and cold provides the best benefits. 

5. Consider assistive devices

Depending on the severity of foot and ankle arthritis, assistive devices can enhance your mobility and reduce strain on the joints. Options such as canes, braces, or orthopedic footwear with built-in support can provide additional stability.

Need help managing foot or ankle arthritis? 

It’s hard (if not impossible) to ignore foot and ankle arthritis, but you don’t have to go on this journey alone. Dr. Mahmood, Dr. Wilson, and the team here at Momentum Foot & Ankle Clinic are experts when it comes to managing arthritis in your feet and ankles with both conservative and surgical treatments.

Depending on the severity of your arthritis, your Momentum Foot & Ankle Clinic provider may recommend:

In addition to treating your arthritis, Dr. Mahmood and Dr. Wilson can help you find relief from other foot conditions, such as bunions, exacerbated by arthritis. 

To schedule your arthritis consultation in our Michigan City, Chesterton, Indiana, or Lombard, Illinois, office, click here to get started.

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