arthritisArthritis is a common condition, particularly in the elderly, as it is a progressive disease that advances over time. Arthritis is the swelling of joints and can occur anywhere in the body, especially in the feet, impacting range of movement and the ability to walk. Arthritis comes in about 100 different forms, with the most common forms being Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Osteoarthritis is common in older people, as it is a direct result of wear and tear over time, particularly in the feet and knees as they are weight-bearing
joints that have endured a huge amount of pressure over a prolonged period. Osteoarthritis is a general breaking down of the joint and usually causes pain and discomfort around the joint. You may also find that your range of movement is less than what it used to be, and your ability to walk is impaired.

Rheumatoid Arthritis is an autoimmune condition that causes the body to work against itself, breaking down joints and resulting in pain, swelling, stiffness and deformity around joints. Rheumatoid Arthritis usually presents earlier in life, but gets progressively worse over time, making the disease a much bigger problem for older patients. Again, range of movement can be severely impaired making walking extremely uncomfortable

Arthritis in the feet can have far-reaching effects on other parts of the feet aside from the affected joints, as your ligaments, tendons and muscles are forced to work harder to maintain stability. This can cause overuse injuries in those ligaments, tendons and muscles, including ankle sprains, torn ligaments and a greater likelihood to fall. Another main concern for over 75s suffering from arthritis is chronic pain, which has huge effects on your overall health as severe pain not only limits movement, but also disturbs sleep and can lead to problems with mental well being and depression.

Treatments are available to alleviate and reduce the symptoms of arthritis. We will carefully assess the severity of the illness and can recommend footwear to give problem joints more room, and therefore reducing the risks of other injuries such as blisters, corns and calluses that can be caused by shoes that rub on swollen areas. Orthotics can also be specially made to provide your feet with extra support and to give you more stability, making it easier to get around. There are also exercises you can do to help to keep the joint moving, which will help to relive the stiffness and pain you may be feeling. Manual therapy using gentle hands on mobilisation techniques can also help.A combination of all these treatments can greatly improve your quality of life and your general comfort and mobility.

Rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease which most commonly affects the small joints of the feet and hands. RA affects 0.5 to 1.0% of the world population and affects women three times more than men. Peak age at onset is most commonly the fifth decade, with the number of sufferers increasing with age. Symptoms include severe pain, stiffness and loss of mobility. Profound fatigue, a general feeling of illness and ongoing flu-like symptoms can also result. The initial trigger is unknown but may be caused by either or both genetic and environmental factors. If left unchecked, the inflammation will lead to breakdown of bone and cartilage at the joints and, over time, issues with joint dislocation. This progressive joint destruction can eventually lead to varying degrees of physical disability, affecting jobs and activities. RA can also shorten a person's lifespan by up to 10 years in some cases.

The foot is the most common site affected in the early stages of RA. Foot involvement becomes greater as the disease progresses. Flat feet is the most common structural deformity, reported in up to 46% of RA patients, and is usually caused by an overall softening of the supporting structures resulting in an arch collapse. Up to 76% of people with RA report difficulty in walking. Foot pain occurs in up to 94% of patients with the disease long-term and 74% in patients with early RA. Foot pain is believed to have the strongest influence on functional ability for people with RA. People with RA also often lose muscle mass and muscular strength because of the decrease in their mobility and use of their muscles. They may also suffer from a limited range of joint motion, poor balance and difficulties with exercise.

This information comes from material generously supplied by - Brenton- Rule, A. (2013). Lecture 5: Rheumatoid arthritis and the foot. Auckland, New Zealand: Auckland University of Technology.

Your footwear and arthritis

Good shoes can help relieve foot pain and symptoms in those with both Rheumatoid Arthritis and Osteoarthritis.

When buying and fitting new shoes:

  • Make sure there is enough space (a minimum of 8-12mm) between the end of the longest toe and the front of the shoe
  • Ensure the ball of the foot fits comfortably into the widest part of the shoe
  • Do not purchase shoes that require wearing in
  • The heel should fit comfortably and the shoes should not ride up and down when walking
  • Buckles, laces or Velcro straps help keep the shoe on Natural fibres such as leather can reduce the likelihood of developing skin irritations

And remember to visit Matthew regularly!


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Burleigh Osteopathic

Clinic: 07 5568 7010


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3/31 Connor Street,
Burleigh Heads, Qld 4220