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Foot and Ankle Osteoarthritis

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How Is Foot and Ankle Osteoarthritis Treated?

Foot and ankle osteoarthritis can be treated in many ways. Nonsurgical methods to treat foot and ankle arthritis include:

  • Steroid medications injected into the joints
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce swelling in the joints
  • Pain relievers
  • Pads or arch supports
  • Canes or braces to support the joints
  • Inserts that support the ankle and foot (orthotics)
  • Physical therapy
  • Custom shoes
  • Weight control

Tips on Foot Care With Osteoarthritis

The most essential element of foot care for people with foot and ankle osteoarthritis is to wear shoes that fit properly and feel comfortable. The following are things to look for in finding a comfortable shoe:

  • Shoes shaped like your foot
  • Shoes that have support -- for example, no slip-on shoes
  • Rubber soles to provide more cushioning
  • Flexibility
  • Proper fit -- ask the salesperson to help you with this

Exercise can help keep your feet pain-free, strong, and flexible. Exercises that can be good for your feet include:

  • Achilles stretch. With your palms flat on a wall, lean against the wall and place one foot forward and one foot back. Lean forward, leaving your heels on the floor. You can feel the pull in your Achilles tendon and your calf. Repeat this exercise three times, holding for 10 seconds on each repeat.
  • Big-toe stretch. Place a thick rubber band around your big toes. Pull the big toes away from each other and toward the other toes. Hold this position for five seconds and repeat the exercise 10 times.
  • Toe pull. Place a rubber band around the toes of each foot, and then spread your toes. Hold this position for five seconds and repeat the exercise 10 times.
  • Toe curl. Pick up marbles with your toes.

Is Surgery an Option for Foot and Ankle Osteoarthritis?

More than one kind of surgery may be required to treat foot and ankle osteoarthritis. Your doctor can select the kind of surgery that is best for you, depending on the extent of your arthritis. The following are some of the surgical options for foot and ankle osteoarthritis:

  • Fusion surgery. This kind of surgery, also called arthrodesis, involves fusing bones together with the use of rods, pins, screws, or plates. After healing, the bones remain fused together.
  • Joint replacement surgery. This kind of surgery involves replacing the ankle joint with artificial implants and is used only in rare cases.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by David Zelman, MD on May 26, 2014
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