Foot problems run on my father’s side of the family. Most of us are afflicted with bunions. Lately the bunion on my right foot has been especially painful and stiff when I walk and exercise. So I consulted a podiatrist colleague of mine to discuss treatment. It turns out the bunion was not the source of my discomfort. I am living with osteoarthritis in my foot.
What is osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis and involves the loss of cartilage over your joints. The cartilage on the ends of your joints prevents them from rubbing against each other. This way you have a smooth, gliding motion when you flex your joints. But if the cartilage breaks down, the bones will thicken. As the joints rub against each other, you begin to experience pain and stiffness. My osteoarthritis is concentrated at the base of my right great toe.
How is it diagnosed?
An x-ray can properly diagnose whether or not you have osteoarthritis. However, mine was so obvious, the podiatrist told me I didn’t need one for diagnosis. As he flexed the ball of my foot, he noted the decreased range of motion in my foot. And yes it did hurt.
What are the treatment options for osteoarthritis?
Living with osteoarthritis is tricky because there is no cure. Instead, treatment plans focus on reducing pain and joint stiffness. A cortisone injection can decrease inflammation and reduce pain. Applying heat and ice also provides some relief. Aspirin or acetaminophen offer temporary comfort as well. Practicing good body mechanics can take the stress off joints and prevent further damage. For chronic pain and loss of joint motion, surgery may necessary.
Living with osteoarthritis: How I cope with pain and stiffness
I had two cortisone shots in the foot years ago for an injury and screamed so loudly, I frightened the doctor. Instead, I have other ways to cope with pain and stiffness.
-Take aspirin. Aleve works best for me.
-Use clinical aromatherapy. I created an essential oil blend with black pepper and ginger, both of which have anti-inflammatory properties. I have noticed a considerable decrease in the frequency of pain flair ups. Eucalyptus and peppermint oils are also good for arthritis pain.
-Practice smart shoe shopping. I avoid high heels and shoes with small toe boxes. I also stick to cross training sneakers for extra protection and support around my toe boxes.
-Modify or avoid exercises that cause joint pain. When lunges are too uncomfortable, I substitute with squats.