Definition: Degenerative joint disease. Osteo means bone, arthro means joint and itis means inflamed.
Osteoarthritis can affect most joints, but because it is wear and tear arthritis, it often affects weight bearing joints.
In the foot, the common site is the big toe joint.
This is a condition where over time cracks develop in the cartilage of the joints.
The cartilage caps or covers the ends of both the bones, which make up the joints. If the cartilage cracks and bone touches bone, the body then treats this as a fracture and tries to fuse or join the bones together. The joint becomes inflamed, new bone is formed and the joint becomes bigger. It will often become red and more obvious because it is larger and will now rub on shoes.
There may be pain or discomfort in the joint particularly after using the foot for a long period of time. There may also be a grinding or clicking sound present.
Because the damaged joint is more sensitive to changes in air pressure, it can function much like a barometer and ache when a change in the weather is imminent. The range of joint motion may be reduced but this does not usually affect walking or running.
Osteoarthritis in the body’s large joints, like the knee, hip and back, can be a major problem but it is less so in the foot.
There is no cure for osteoarthritis.
In the acute stages of osteoarthritic change, it can be an extremely painful condition. Once this progresses to the chronic stage, the pain is lessened.
The best treatments are designed to help the body achieve its objectives and complete the osteoarthritic changes.
Treatments such as heat, contrast foot baths, ultrasound and laser, etc. can be very useful. The use of custom molded foot orthotics to straighten, cushion and protect the joint can also be useful.
Even though no cure is available, cushioning and protecting the affected joint and limiting osteoarthritic changes, in the as yet unaffected foot joints, is a good option. Over the counter and prescription medications may be discussed with your family doctor.