Foot Arthritis, Joint Pain Symptoms and Relief
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The foot is a virtual maze of bones and joints - it contains 26 bones (one-quarter of those found in the human body!) which come together to form 33 joints. It is also home to over 100 muscles, ligaments and tendons. All of these diverse parts work together to give the body support, stability and mobility.
There are three main parts to the foot: the forefoot, midfoot and hindfoot.
The forefoot contains five toes, each of which is made up of smaller bones (phalanges). Each toe connects at the ball of the foot to one of five long bones (metatarsals) which make up the body of the foot. The big toe is made up of two phalanges and connects to the first metatarsal, while each of the other toes is made up of three phalanges and is connected to its respective metatarsal. Located on the ball of the foot just behind the big toe joint are two small bones called sesamoids that help the big toe move up and down. Fully half of the body's weight is borne by the forefoot, with the first metatarsal bearing the most pressure and the rest spread throughout the ball of the foot.
The midfoot, which forms the arch of the foot and acts as a shock absorber, is made up of five irregularly shaped tarsal bones (the navicular, cuboid and three cuneiform), which form multiple joints. The cuboid and the cuneiform bones are joined to the metatarsals. The navicular is wedged between the cuneiform and the talus bones.
The hindfoot connects the midfoot and contains three bones: the calcaneus (heel bone) which connects to the talus, a platform-like bone that sits above the heel and fits neatly into the cup-shaped space formed by the ends of the tibia/fibula. The talus connects the foot to the lower leg.
Arthritis is a major cause of foot pain because each foot has so many targets: 33 joints apiece! It can settle in the toes causing hammer toes or claw toes; in the big toe causing a bunion or pain related to gout; in the midfoot, especially where the long metatarsal bones meet the tarsal bones (above the arch); even in the hindfoot, particularly after the calcaneus has been fractured. Arthritis sets in when the slick, smooth surface provided by the cartilage, which covers the ends of the many bones in the feet, becomes damaged or worn away and, in some cases, bone spurs are formed.
Although people tend to think of arthritis as being a single disease, it is actually the name give to a entire "category" of diseases that produce symptoms in the joints and, often, elsewhere in the body. The Arthritis Foundation recognizes over 100 different types of arthritis, including:
- Osteoarthritis, which is often called "wear and tear" arthritis and becomes more common with advancing age.
- Rheumatoid arthritis, a potentially crippling, body-wide disease that typically attacks "matched" joints (such as both feet, both ankles or both elbows), as well as other parts of the body.
- Gout, a very painful swelling that often settles in the big toe "bunion" joint, caused by an accumulation of uric acid crystals in that joint.
- Infectious arthritis, which develops when bacteria, viruses or fungi attack a joint, causing pain, swelling and/or stiffness.
- Lupus, a chronic disease caused by a "confused" immune system that attacks the body in general and the joints in particular.
While the forms of arthritis are diverse, all of them share these traits: they cause pain and movement limitation within one or more joints.
The feet bear the entire weight of the body. With all of that force bearing down on their 66 joints (33 per foot), and the impact of that weight amplified with every step, it's no wonder that the foot is susceptible to arthritis, and the symptoms can become severe enough to drastically affect your life and ability to get around.
According to the American Podiatric Medical Association, the risk factors for the development of arthritis of the foot include:1
- Foot injury - especially if untreated or improperly treated.
- Infection - which occurs when germs that cause pneumonia, staph infections and other diseases find their way into one of the joints in the foot.
- Bowel disorders - symptoms of arthritis in the toes may arise in conjunction with ileitis, colitis and other bowel diseases.
- Certain prescription medications - including the floroquinolone family of antibiotics (ciprofloxacin, levofloxacin) and anastrozole, a breast cancer drug.
- Inherited genetic "errors"
The forms of arthritis that typically attack the feet include osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout and lupus.
1. Osteoarthritis of the Foot
Also known as "wear and tear" arthritis and degenerative arthritis, osteoarthritis slowly destroys cartilage, the slick, cushioning substance that caps the bone ends in a joint and allows them to move smoothly against each other. It also absorbs the shock generated every time your foot strikes the ground, whether you're walking, running, playing racquetball, dancing or just tapping your toes along with the music. Thus, cartilage is a little bit of an ice skate and a little bit of a padded slipper. An ice skate helps you glide easily across an ice rink with very little friction. And in a padded slipper, you can walk in comfort because the padding absorbs the shock.
As long as the cartilage capping the bone ends is healthy, the bones can move easily across each other and are subjected to much less shock generated by movement. But should the cartilage break down, the bone ends can begin to rub against each other and suffer the effects of unabsorbed shock. Tiny fractures may begin to appear in the ends of the bones and pain and other symptoms will set in. The body attempts to heal the damage by "thickening" the bone ends and triggering the growth of bony spurs, much like bone calluses. Unfortunately, this can make matters worse as the bone spurs "catch" against the ends of other bones during movement, causing more pain.
The list of symptoms of foot arthritis include pain, redness and warmth around the joint, swelling, tenderness, movement limitation and even crackling sounds upon movement. At first rest may help relieve the symptoms, but as damage to the joint progresses, there may be pain even when resting, as well as early morning stiffness.
The origins of cartilage breakdown may traced to an injury, a misalignment of the joint that creates uneven wear and tear, or an infection that starts in another part of the body and moves into the joint. Many times, however, the exact cause is a mystery.
The disease can strike most anyone, but you're more likely to suffer from osteoarthritis of the foot if you are 40 or older, female, overweight, have previously injured your foot, have subjected your feet to repetitive stress at work or play, or your parents had osteoarthritis. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 2.3% of Americans aged 25 or older have x-ray evidence of osteoarthritis of the feet.2
2. Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis is a body-wide inflammatory condition in which the immune system "goes wild" and attacks the body because it mistakes healthy body tissue for a foreign invader.
Rheumatoid arthritis may attack many joints throughout the body, but it typically attacks them in pairs. That is, it will assault both feet, both hips, both shoulders, and so on. Errant immune system cells assail the joint lining (synovium) which, among other things, produces fluid in the joint capsule that moistens and nourishes the cartilage. This attack on the synovium causes it to become inflamed. In addition, its cells begin to grow and divide abnormally, and may start to invade nearby cartilage and bone. Joint damage ensues, and eventually the joint can become misaligned and misshapen. In a worst case scenario, the joint becomes locked in a twisted, useless position.
Often, rheumatoid arthritis will cause a bunion to develop in the joint where the big toe connects to the first metatarsal. This misaligns the joint and makes the big toe "lean" toward the other toes, while the other toes can become "hammered" (bent in the middle) or "clawed" (digging down into the soles of the shoes like a claw).
Although rheumatoid arthritis can strike anyone at almost any age, women are twice as likely as men to develop the disease, especially those between the ages of 20 and 50. Why this is so remains a mystery.
When most people think of gout they imagine a very heavy, very rich person like King Henry VIII sitting in a plush chair with his leg propped up on a stool and a bandage wrapped around his big toe. Pain is plainly written all over his face. You might think this because diets rich in meat, which were once reserved for the wealthy, are a causative factor in gout. But the disease can strike those of any economic status.
Gout hits hard and fast. You can go to bed feeling fine, only to wake up a few hours later with terrible pain in the bunion joint of your big toe. The joint is swollen, stiff and warm; the skin covering it looks tight and reddish-purple. If you could look inside the joint, you would see a large accumulation of sharp, pointed uric acid crystals which were deposited by the body to get them out of the bloodstream. That's the source of the pain.
The big toe is often the initial target of gout, although it may also strike in other areas of the feet including the heels, as well as the ankles, elbows and elsewhere. Sufferers may experience just one attack or many.
Risk factors for gout include overweight, elevated blood pressure, use of diuretics ("water pills") and a diet rich in meat or seafood.
Lupus - more properly known as systemic lupus erythematosus - gets its name from the reddish facial rash it triggers that some say makes the victim's face resemble a wolf. ("Lupus" is Latin for "wolf.") Like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus is the result of the body attacking itself. In this case, the body produces large numbers of auto-antibodies that attack the joints, heart, lungs, skin and other parts of the body.
The symptoms of lupus are many and varied, depending upon which parts of the body are attacked. Common symptoms include the facial rash, pain and inflammation of the joints, fever, anemia and depression. Joint pain is a prominent symptom, with more than half of all lupus patients saying that joint pain was the first indication that something was wrong.3 Lupus is a chronic disease but it waxes and wanes, "flaring up" periodically, then fading away for weeks or even years.
Exactly what causes the immune system to attack the body is unknown. Genes are believed to predispose a person to developing lupus, but the victim doesn't contract the disease until she encounters a "trigger." Potential triggers include infection, emotional stress, surgery, injury and certain medications.
Women are much more prone to developing lupus than men, and those in their child-bearing years are the most likely to suffer.
Physicians and other healers prescribe a number of treatments and supplements for arthritis of the foot, ranging from rest to medicine to surgery, from acupuncture to glucosamine to weight loss. Some treatments are designed to relieve symptoms, while others aim to heal the body as a whole. Depending on the type of arthritis, physicians may prescribe medicines to relieve pain and reduce inflammation or to address the disease itself as in the case of gout, rheumatoid arthritis or lupus.
Other treatments for arthritis may include:
- Wearing proper footwear
- Weight loss
- Dietary Strategies
- Physical and other therapies
|Treatment of joint related conditions in general may also be supported with JoMo, a 100% natural maximum strength glucosamine and chondroitin based joint relief and cartilage support supplement.|
Special shoes, braces and shoe inserts may be prescribed by your doctor to help support, stabilize and cushion the foot and relieve symptoms. Gel toe caps and toe shields, shoes with a high and wide toe box, arch supports and custom-made braces are among the devices that may be suggested.
Rest does not alter the progression of arthritis of the foot, but simply sitting or lying down, perhaps with the feet elevated, may temporarily relieve pain and swelling, especially in the early stages of the disease.
The feet bear the weight of the entire body, and the pressure that weight creates on the joints of the feet can do much to aggravate the symptoms of arthritis. In addition, obesity itself is a risk factor for the development of osteoarthritis. Losing weight not only reduces the risk of developing osteoarthritis and gout,4 it can help relieve at least some of the pain, swelling and movement limitation experienced with arthritis of the foot.
The thought of exercising may be the last thing on your mind when your feet hurt, but exercise is as important for your feet as it is for the rest of your body. A good exercise program will:
- Increase circulation to the joints, which will provide nourishment to the cartilage and aid in the control of inflammation.
- Maintain or increase joint flexibility.
- Strengthen the muscles, tendons and ligaments surrounding the joints so these structures can absorb some of the shock and help keep the joint stable and properly aligned.
Usually prescribed by a physical therapist or physician, your exercise program may include light weight training to strengthen the muscles supporting the feet, yoga to improve flexibility, and tai chi to improve balance. You might also be advised to switch from weight-bearing aerobic exercise to a form that's easier on your feet - for example, substituting bicycling or swimming for jogging-to take the pressure off while still providing you with a good cardiovascular workout.
You might also work with a physical therapist or kinesiologist to make sure that you're walking properly. Yes, there is a "right way" to stride, and if you're doing it the wrong way you may be slamming your heels into the ground, letting your ankles roll in or doing other things that can put undue stress on the joints in your feet.
Individually or in tandem, the supplements glucosamine and/or chondroitin have been shown to help relieve the symptoms of osteoarthritis and even slow progression of the disease and help the body repair damaged cartilage. Studies at major research centers in the U.S. and abroad have confirmed these results. Normally found in healthy cartilage, glucosamine and chondroitin help keep the cartilage from drying and "flattening" out, while providing the building blocks for cartilage repair and growth.
|The Mayo Clinic notes that "The consensus of expert and industry opinion supports the use of chondroitin and its common partner agent, glucosamine, for improving symptoms and stopping (or possibly reversing) the degenerative process of osteoarthritis."5 The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons adds that recent studies appear to support the idea that glucosamine and chondroitin relieve osteoarthritis pain.6Learn More|
JoMo was developed by one of the leading Orthopedic Surgeons for an NBA basketball team to help relieve the pain and suffering of joint and cartilage related conditions.
JoMo's active 100% natural ingredients include:
- Glucosamine (HCL) (2000mg) for healthy joints and cartilage support.*
- Chondroitin (1200mg) for joint and cartilage lubrication and protection.*
- Type II Collagen (50mg),which aids in the building and support of the body's natural collagen, the foundation of connective tissue and cartilage fibers.*
- "Superfruit" Antioxidants to fight the inflammation and oxidative stress which often lie at the heart of joint pain and other serious diseases, including cancer and heart disease.*
- MSM (500mg), a sulfur compound that helps stabilize the connective tissues found in cartilage, tendons and ligaments, and is also believed to have anti-inflammatory action that helps reduce pain and swelling in arthritis.*
- Manganese, a mineral essential for normal bone structure and the manufacture of cartilage.*
- vitamin C &D, for bone health and immunity support.*
JoMo is shellfish free, and is 100% natural with no added sugar or artificial flavors.
Healers have long searched for foods that relieve pain and other symptoms of arthritis. While a food that can eliminate arthritis has not yet been found, there are a number of dietary strategies that can be helpful, including the following:
- Shed excess weight. A reasonable program of diet and exercise can help you shed excess pounds that may be exacerbating your symptoms.
- Reduce intake of inflammation-generating foods. Meat, poultry, many fast foods, corn oil, safflower oil and other foods containing linoleic acid may help "fuel" the inflammatory processes that are harming the joints. (The body converts linoleic acid into arachidonic acid, which plays a role in the inflammation process). Click here for more details on foods that increase inflamation.
- Increase inflammation-reducing foods. Salmon, butternuts, green soybeans and other foods containing omega 3 fatty oils have the potential to reduce inflammation and provide nutrients for joint support. More on foods that decrease inflammation
- Increase nutrients that support strong bones to lessen risk of fracture. Calcium and vitamins D and K are among the nutrients the body needs to build strong bones. Calcium is found in milk, dried figs and cheese, vitamin D is found in vitamin D-fortified dairy products and cod liver oil, and vitamin K is found in broccoli, Romaine lettuce, spinach and other green leafy vegetables.
- Decrease intake of "Nightshade Vegetables"
A number of therapies that involve physically manipulating the body or otherwise altering or influencing it are used to reduce the symptoms of arthritis and improve the body's ability to heal. These include:
- Acupuncture - Acting on the theory that blockages in the body's energy flow contribute to disease, acupuncturists insert fine needles into selected points in the body in order to unblock the energy flow and help the body heal itself.
- Chiropractic - In the belief that the body's natural healing properties are hampered when the spinal nerves are impinged upon, chiropractors manipulate the spine in order to correct misalignment and relieve the pressure.
- Electrical Stimulation - Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) is used to introduce a mild electrical current into the painful area to reduce the perception of pain and/or "push" painkilling medicine through the skin and into the body.
- Infrared Sauna and Steam - Infrared radiation penetrates deeper into the body than the heat of a regular sauna, improving circulation and helping release toxins that contribute to the development of arthritis and/or worsening of its symptoms.
- Magnetic Therapy - Based on the theory that the body's self-healing properties depend on the proper electromagnetic balance, magnetic therapy is used to increase circulation and support the healing process.
- Massage Therapy - Massage therapy is designed to improve circulation, relieve stress and reduce symptoms by manipulating the soft tissues with motion, pressure and/or vibration.
- Osteopathy - A non-invasive form of treatment, osteopathy involves physical manipulation of the body to strengthen the musculoskeletal system and encourage the body's natural healing systems.
- Reiki - A Japanese therapy for reducing stress, Reiki is a form of energy healing that involves the "laying of the hands" by the practitioner near the surface of the skin to improve the patient's energy system.
Typically considered only after medicines, physical therapies and other options have been exhausted, surgery can be helpful in selected cases. Surgeries for arthritis of the foot include:
- Arthroscopic "clean up" - Bone spurs, loose bone fragments and pieces of damaged joint lining can be removed and uneven bone surfaces smoothed out, using tiny surgical implements inserted into the elbow joint through small incisions.
- Joint replacement - Typically reserved for older patients, this involves removing the distressed bone ends and inserting an artificial elbow joint.
NOTE: The effectiveness of different treatments varies from person to person. Surgery can be very helpful but is always risky, so you should discuss it very carefully with your physician before making a decision.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Individual results vary.
**As with any program of diet, exercise, weight loss or therapy, consult your medical practitioner, especially if you have a history of heart disease or other conditions.