Chronic Foot and Ankle Pain: Could It Be Osteoarthritis?

May 10, 2023
Chronic Foot and Ankle Pain: Could It Be Osteoarthritis?
Do you have pain in your foot and ankle that comes and goes for no apparent reason? Read on to find out if it could be osteoarthritis

Your foot and ankle contain 26 bones and 33 small joints, and because the foot and ankle bear your weight, these bones and joints are the most likely to be injured or overused. 

Pain is considered chronic when it comes and goes for at least 12 weeks at a time. The most common cause of persistent pain in the joints is osteoarthritis, a non-inflammatory type of arthritis caused by wear-and-tear.

Osteoarthritis is progressive, meaning it will worsen over time if left untreated. For that reason, and because May is National Arthritis Awareness Month, we asked Dr. Kenneth Meisler, our expert, to share some signs that your pain could be due to osteoarthritis.

Signs that osteoarthritis is causing your pain

Osteoarthritis “eats away” at the cartilage, which is the slippery tissue that covers the ends of bones. Cartilage ensures there’s no friction between bones that could lead to the wearing down of the bone, and the slippery property of the cartilage ensures smooth movements. 

Osteoarthritis is a biomechanical disease, meaning it appears in the presence of wear-and-tear. Your pain with osteoarthritis will worsen as the day progresses, because there’s more wear-and-tear. In addition to pain, you may experience stiffness and swelling.

Risk factors for osteoarthritis 

When wondering whether this is a disease or simply an acute pain response, you should also look to see if you have some of the risk factors for osteoarthritis. These include the following:

  • Poor muscle mass
  • Obesity 
  • Overuse (jobs that involve a lot of walking)
  • Trauma to the foot or ankle 
  • Age (men and women over age 50 are more likely to experience it)

In our office, Dr. Meisler uses a variety of tools to determine what’s causing your pain, including imaging techniques to see if there’s any visible damage to your cartilage. 

Managing osteoarthritis 

The management of osteoarthritis is often a combination of lifestyle changes, physical therapy, and medications. 

If you’re overweight, losing weight will help take some of the pressure off your feet and ankles. In addition, if you have poor muscle mass, increasing your muscle mass will take some of the pressure off your joints and bones when you walk. Ask the doctor for guidance if you’re not able to do these on your own.

Physical therapy is also a must, as staying active increases blood flow to damaged tissues and speeds up healing. 

To improve your walk and how weight and force are distributed on your feet and ankles, we may recommend custom shoe inserts and braces.

For pain management, Dr. Meisler may prescribe either oral medications or injections. Injections are used for longer periods of pain relief, and the effects may last anywhere from six to 12 weeks. 

If the pain is severe and the damage to the cartilage is quite extensive, surgery is another solution Dr. Meisler offers. During surgery, he removes the damaged cartilage and replaces it with artificial cartilage that ensures smooth movement of bones and reduces the friction that’s at the root of the pain. 

If you’re suffering from persistent pain, don’t wait any longer to seek help. Contact us to schedule an appointment. Osteoarthritis is a progressive disease, and the earlier you treat it, the better your outcome will be.