The foot, because of the way it is built and the demands placed upon it on a daily basis make it a common site for the formation of arthritis. The bones, ligaments and tendons of the foot are designed to work in conjunction with each other in an effort to propel us forward. There are just so many factors that can adversely affect this simple goal and over time can cause a "wearing out" of the joints of the foot which then leads to arthritis.
Most people suffer from osteoarthritis which is the simple wear and tear arthritis that all joints undergo over time. I equate this phenomenon as the same as tires wearing out on a car. The more you drive, the quicker the tires wear out. Other factors like unbalanced tires, the terrain one drives on, will also cause premature wearing on the tires.
The same is true for the foot. Yes, we all have to walk and that alone, over time, will cause the bones in the foot to start to wear out, but there are other contributing factors as well.
People who are athletic their whole like will generally see a more rapid deterioration of their joints. Those of us who are overweight will also see an increased rate of arthritis in the feet (ankles, knees and hips, as well) due to the added stress placed on their lower extremities.
Those with biomechanical abnormalities where their feet are either excessively flat or the opposite, very rigid, will also tend to see a more rapid degeneration.
And, of course, there are shoes. Those who wish to wear high style shoes are pretty much assured of having arthritic problems at some point in their feet.
Compounding this is the fact aside from osteoarthritis, there are other types of arthritis that can affect the feet such as rheumatoid arthritis , psoriatic arthritis in those who suffer from psoriasis and even gouty arthritis in those individuals that suffer multiple gout attacks over the years. These types of inflammatory types of arthritis can be more painful and harder to treat than osteoarthritis.
The natural progression of joints wearing out essentially start from the time we start walking as toddlers. Of course, it will take some longer than others to manifest pain, but unfortunately, the joints of the body were not designed to last forever.
Like anything else, most of us do not pay attention to this potential issue until it becomes a problem. Arthritic pain is one of the most common reasons people seek my help. The good news is that most of these people can be treated by nonsurgical means and only a small percent end up having a surgical procedure to correct any arthritic abnormality.
Some arthritic conditions are chronic meaning the patient is experiencing pain on an ongoing basis while others just have periodic flare-ups of painful episodes. Of course, treatment should be geared to the type of pain the patient presents with.
Again, it is beyond the scope of this site to discuss all the various treatments available for the treatment of arthritis, but instead lets talk about how an orthotic might play in to the mix.
how does an orthotic help foot arthritis?
One of biggest causes of early degeneration of joints occurs when the two bones that come together to form a joint, do not line up properly. This can occur for any number of reasons including biomechanical abnormalities, excess weight, over stress from athletics, etc. By placing an orthotic that actually supports the foot, it creates a more proper alignment of the bones and ligaments and allows for the joints to work in their maximum range of motion. A good example of this is in the treatment of hallux rigidus which is an arthritic degeneration of the great toe joint. The limited motion that occurs causes pain.
By placing an orthotic under the foot and making modifications to it, in many instances we are able to create just a little bit more motion in the joint and for many, this can be the difference between comfort and not undergoing surgical correction.
The other way an orthotic can help people, particularly elderly people is through the use of an orthotic to cushion the foot. The more arthritic feet become, the more deformed they also become. The arthritis not only creates joint pain, but particularly in the foot, creates bone protrusion on all sides of the foot, particularly the bottom of the foot.
By wearing a cushioned orthotic one can improve and pain on the bottom of the foot and to a lesser extent create better joint alignment which may also help to alleviate pain.
If your foot pain has been diagnosed as an arthritic problem and is generalized pain then you have a lot of leeway in choosing an orthotic and is probably worth the effort to try an orthotic.
store bought arch support may be very helpful for general cushioning and perhaps some degree of support. Particularly helpful for general arthritis of the feet.
medical grade off the shelf orthotic generally these will work well as they can be purchased with both adequate cushioning and better than average support. The SuperStep orthotic by KLM labs is particularly good.
prescription orthotic for more severe cases, this may be your best bet particularly for specific arthritic sites on the foot and ankle. Some of these conditions require better support and improved alignment of the joints in order to reduce pain.