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Posts for tag: stiffness

Arthritis affects 40 million people in the US. There are many types of arthritis and it can manifest in almost any part of the body so it’s difficult at times to keep track of what’s what. The most common arthritic condition of the foot is called Hallux Rigidus. No, it’s not a spell from Harry Potter; Hallux is a name for the big toe and Rigidus means it has become rigid, unable to bend.

Hallux Rigidus is a degenerative arthritis (osteoarthritis), meaning it can occur from the everyday wear and tear you put on your feet. You are at greater risk for hallux rigidus if you have a family history of arthritis or have a preexisting structural abnormality (fallen arches, excessive pronation, etc.). One in every 40 adults over 50 years old are affected by this condition.

READ MORE: Osteoarthritis

The toe becomes stiff because the metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint at the base of the large toe becomes inflamed and hinders proper movement. This leads to a big problem because our big toe needs to bend every time we take a step.

Symptoms of Hallux Rigidus include pain and of course inability to bend the big toe. At first, this may be minor and aggravated by cold or damp weather. You may have trouble with certain activities and movements such as running or squatting. Inflammation of the joint can lead to swelling, redness, and difficulty wearing shoes. Eventually, bone spurs may occur, and the toe can become completely immobile.

Diagnosis requires a physical examination where your podiatrist will test the flexibility and range of motion in your joint. They may also take x-rays to check the progression of arthritis or look for bone spurs. Like most podiatric ailments, if caught early enough, Hallux Rigidus has some simple non-surgical solutions. 

You guessed it, wearing the right shoes that don’t put undue pressure on or squeeze the toes can help keep your big toe moving. Orthotic devices to correct structural abnormalities, corticosteroid injections, and foot exercises or physical therapy are all conservative treatment methods that help stop the progression of this painful condition.

READ MORE: Footwear for Spring

The stiffer your big toe becomes, the less chance there is of keeping a full range of motion. If you feel that your big toe just isn’t the same as it used to be and is keeping you from living a healthy and active lifestyle call the FAAWC for an appointment today.

Continuing on with our theme of arthritis, let’s take a look at Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). Unlike other types of arthritis that can develop from overuse or injury, Rheumatoid Arthritis comes from within. Classified as an autoimmune disorder, RA occurs when the body attacks its own tissues, specifically the lining of the joints. One of the reasons rheumatoid arthritis and foot care go together is that the early signs of RA occur in the smaller joints, like where your toes attach to your feet.

The spaces in between your joints have a membrane called the Synovium. This is a specialized tissue that lines our joints and maintains the synovial fluid, which reduces friction between joints and absorbs shock from our movement. For reasons unknown to science (although they have a few clues), some people’s bodies decide to treat this tissue like a foreign invader and will attack.

When attacked, the body reacts with swelling, redness, and stiffness. During these attacks, or flares, the synovium thickens, causing damage to the surrounding cartilage and bone. Flares can last for days or months and the longer and more often your RA symptoms remain, the more likely you are to have permanent damage. Constant thickening of the synovium can stretch and weaken the connections between tendons and ligaments and lead to permanent physical deformity. While the disease generally starts in the fingers and toes, it can easily spread to the wrists, ankles, knees, elbows, and further.

Science only has a few clues as to why some people develop RA while others don’t. Age (first occurs in people between 40 and 60 years old), sex (women account for 70% of RA patients), obesity (especially when diagnosed at a younger age), and family history (certain genetic markers are thought to contribute to RA) are all contributing factors to your risk for rheumatoid arthritis.

Unfortunately, the effects of RA can be felt way beyond your joints. RA can also lead to complications with your skin, eyes, lungs, heart, kidneys, salivary glands, nerve tissues, bone marrow, or even blood vessels. We will explore a few of these things next week when we look deeper into autoimmune disorders.

Diagnosis is not an exact science either. The early stages of RA can be hard to catch since they mimic other arthritis conditions. A family history may be taken, blood tests may be performed to look for indicating markers, and x-rays may be taken to track the progression. There are many choices for treatment options, but the disease is not curable and medications simply reduce or stop symptoms.

For the early stages, over the counter pain medications may be all that are needed to reduce swelling and pain. Steroid shots can be prescribed to relieve acute symptoms, but are not a long term solution. The two most popular options are Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) and Biologic agents. DMARDs can slow the actual progression of RA, but come with some nasty side effects to the liver and lungs. Biologics is a newer class of drugs that target the body’s trigger system for RA flares. However, you do put yourself at a higher risk for infection.

Needless to say, rheumatoid arthritis can be a very painful and lifelong disease, but it doesn’t have to stop you from living a full life. Early diagnosis and early treatment can help you battle RA and maintain and active and healthy lifestyle. Talk to your doctor if you are experiencing joint pain. You hold your own future in your hands (or feet, in this case).

This month we are looking at the exciting world of arthritis. Last week we discussed gout, a type of arthritis brought on by the buildup of uric acid in the body. This week, let’s take a look at Osteoarthritis. Sometimes referred to as “wear and tear” arthritis, osteoarthritis is a condition in which the cushioning between our joints wears down bringing all sorts of problems with it.

All of us use the joints in our bodies every single day. Just look how many there are in your hand and arm alone. Now, think about how much your feet (in particular) twist, bend, flex, and move in a single day or even a single hour. That’s a lot of movement! Unfortunately, osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, affecting millions of people across the globe. And sometimes there is very little we can do to prevent it. Risk factors for osteoarthritis include:

  • Old age – The longer you’ve been using your joints, the more likely they are to be worn down and cause symptoms.
  • Sex – Women are more likely than men to develop osteoarthritis (and we’re not exactly sure why).
  • Weight – Carrying a lot of extra weight puts extra stress on our joints and can lead to a faster breakdown of the protective tissue in our joints.
  • Your job – If your job puts constant strain on a single joint or set of joints (such as a job that involves lots of standing and walking) this could contribute to the breakdown of joint tissue.
  • Genetics and bone deformities – Unfortunately, some people are born with a malformed joint or even just a genetic predisposition to develop osteoarthritis.
  • Injuries – Any injury to a joint, even if it seems fully healed, can contribute to osteoarthritis later in life.

The signs of osteoarthritis start simply, but the disease is progressive and will worsen over time. Symptoms include pain (imagine that), stiffness or tenderness, loss of flexibility, possible bone spurs, and some people experience the feeling of their bones grinding together when they move.

X-rays and MRIs are the best way to diagnose osteoarthritis. A family history and physical examination are also generally conducted. Blood or joint fluid tests may be required to differentiate between osteoarthritis and other types of arthritis. If your pain is being caused by osteoarthritis, there is a myriad of treatment options to choose from.

Many patients can be treated with over the counter pain relieving medications. They may also benefit from gentle exercises, such as yoga, or physical therapy. If the pain cannot be managed with OTC meds, your doctor may suggest cortisone injections. This is a limited treatment option, since the maximum recommended treatment is less than four injections a year. In worst-case scenarios, joint replacement surgery may be necessary.

If you experience pain, stiffness, or a grinding sensation in your joints, and especially if you have a family history of arthritis, please make an appointment with your doctor to be checked for osteoarthritis. Catching this progressive disease early is important in order to slow the degeneration of your joint tissues. As I have said many times before, pain is not normal, if you are experiencing it on a regular basis, go see your doctor. Your joints will thank you!

Pain: it hurts. (Imagine that!) But when that pain becomes chronic, it takes on a whole new meaning. Tendonitis is a chronic inflammatory condition that can affect many different parts of the body. As we know, tendons are strong bands of fibers that connect our muscles to our bones. When we overuse or misuse these tendons, we cause damage. Even minor damage to our tendons sparks the body’s natural response to send extra blood to the area to help it heal; we call this swelling. Usually swelling should last only a couple of days, but chronic damage to our tendons causes chronic pain and swelling; we call this tendonitis.

The primary cause of tendonitis is overuse. You hear about it mostly in athletes who perform the same exercises over and over again, but it can truly affect anyone. If you experience chronic pain, swelling, and stiffness in any part of your body, you could be affected by tendonitis. You have over 100 tendons in your legs, ankles, and feet alone so tendonitis has many places to manifest. The most common tendonitis issues in the feet are:

Achilles Tendonitis: Pain between the heel and the calf.

Posterior Tibial Tendonitis:  Pain on the inner side of the foot.

Peroneal Tendonitis: Pain on the outer ankle.

Extensor Tendonitis: Pain on the top of the foot.

Anterior Tibial Tendonitis: Pain at the front on your foot.

If you experience recurring pain in any of these areas, you need to see your podiatrist. You could be over working your feet, be wearing the wrong shoes, or even have an underlying foot abnormality (like flat feet) that is exacerbating your condition. Any number of things could cause tendonitis in your feet and ankles. Taking care of the problem before it becomes chronic is important. Recovery could take weeks or months depending on the severity of your tendonitis. Treatment includes managing pain and swelling, addressing the underlying cause of the problem, and resting the affected area for the duration of the recovery period. If you continue to overuse your feet, tendonitis will come back; so make sure to follow your doctor’s orders!