Arthritis: Grinding in Your Joints

Robert G. Parker
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Dr. Parker is a podiatrist and surgeon in Houston, TX who has been helping patients for more than 40 years.

Arthritis in Feet and AnklesEven small amounts of grinding and friction can do a lot of damage over time. Outdoor adventurers make a real effort to keep sand out of their ropes and other equipment for that reason. Grains of sand are small, it’s true, but as they rub against rope fibers, the clamps or hinges of climbing clips, or any other equipment, they cause damage. Given enough time, they can actually ruin gear. Arthritis is a lot like getting sand in your joints. It starts out small, but it slowly causes inflammation damage between your bones.

Getting “Sandy” Joints

Arthritis is a category of conditions that involve inflammation and damage in your joints. Like sand getting between gears and causing grinding that stiffens and slows things down, arthritis involves grinding and stiffening between bones. You can develop this between any two bones that meet—but joints that are frequently used or are normally under a lot of stress, including the feet and ankles, are the most common victims.

There are many different types of arthritis that can impact the lower limbs. There are a few, however, that are more common than the others: osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and post-traumatic arthritis.

  • Osteoarthritis – This results from general wear and tear over the years. The protective layers break down and allow the bones underneath to grind together.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis – This is an autoimmune disease. The body sees the protective lining around you joints as a pathogen and attacks it, deforming the bones.
  • Post-traumatic arthritis – An injury may compromise the joint and wear away the protective lining, allowing the bones to rub together.

The Painful Cost to your Feet and Ankles

The most common symptom of any type of arthritis is joint pain. Using the affected joints grinds the bones and causes discomfort. Usually this feels worst with repetitive hard impacts or vigorous activities. Swelling and redness in your lower limbs is common. You might have some tenderness in your joints as well. All of these side effects can make walking very difficult and uncomfortable for you.

Alleviating the Stiffness

Arthritis is a degenerative disease, so it will get worse with time. Treating the problem helps control it and maintain range of motion and function in your lower limbs. Dr. Robert Parker will evaluate your feet to identify the type of arthritis and check for any complications. Then our staff can help you begin methods to manage your discomfort.

For the vast majority of people, conservative methods are all they need for treatment. You’ll need to make adjustments to your activities to cut back on things that aggravate your joints. This often means switching from hard-impact to low-impact activities. You shouldn’t give up exercising altogether, though; movement keeps your joints from stiffening up completely, so they maintain some range of motion. Physical therapy can help with this.

Wearing appropriate shoes is crucial. Stick to styles with low heels and cushioned soles. You may need orthotics to help control unwanted or painful foot motion. Severe arthritis might need special braces for this. For persistent pain, we may recommend anti-inflammatory medications, or even direct injections into the joint. If conservative methods aren’t effective, then surgery may be an option.

Surgery for Arthritis

Degenerative joint disease in the foot is commonly located at the first metatarsal phalangeal joint—in other words, the base of the big toe. Bunions are a common result of bad arthritis at this joint.

For many years, a bone fusion was the preferred surgical treatment, and while it relieved pain and fixed the deformity, it also prevented the patient from moving their toe up and down. However, since the late 1970s, Dr. Parker has been performing joint replacement surgeries with titanium implants that allow a full range of motion while relieving pain in more than 90 percent of cases. One of the first in Houston to use artificial joints, Dr. Parker has decades of experience performing this procedure successfully.

It does take effort, but you can maintain your mobility and some of your range of motion when you have arthritis. Don’t settle for living in pain. Our team of specialists at Parker Foot & Ankle can help you every step of the way. Use our website to make an appointment at our Houston, TX, office. You can also call us at (281) 497-2850.