What is Osteroarthritis?

As people age, they are at a higher risk of arthritis. While there are over 100 different forms of arthritis, osteoarthritis is the most common form of non-inflammatory. It occurs in all joints that are used frequently but is especially painful n weight bearing joints. Each joint in our body goes through a normal cycle of use, causing damage and a need for repair. Normal wear and tear on the joint is the cause of osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is characterized by the breakdown and loss of cartilage in a joint. This cartilage protects and cushions the bones as people move. When it deteriorates or wears out, painful symptoms develop.

top view of bunions


There are several causes of osteoarthritis, a wear-and-tear type of arthritis. 

  • Repeated stress on the same joint causes cartilage in the joint to wear down over time.
  • Injuries that cause a decrease in joint space. Symptoms may not appear until months or years later.
  • Traumatic injuries such as severe sprains or fractures in the feet and ankles can also lead to osteoarthritis. 
  • Abnormal foot mechanics 
    • Flat feet cause instability in the ligaments, putting excess strain on the joints.
    • High arches cause a decrease in joint space, increasing the risk of arthritis.
    • Equinus or short back leg muscles increase pressure on the front of the foot and cause osteoarthritis.
  • Obesity and genetics can contribute to the development and cause rapid progression of osteoarthritis.


People with osteoarthritis in the foot or ankle will experience symptoms to varying degrees. Including:

  • Pain and stiffness in the joint
  • Swelling in or near the joint
  • Difficulty walking or bending the joint.
  • A bone spur can occur at the affected joint as well. This can further limit the range of motion of the joint.


To diagnose foot and ankle osteoarthritis, your doctor will begin by examining the foot and ankle thoroughly. They are checking for swelling in the joint, limited mobility, and pain with range of movement. Your doctor will use x-rays or other imaging such as MRIs for CT scans to further evaluate this condition. Arthritis is a progressive disease for which there is no cure. There are many surgical and non-surgical treatment options available. These treatments are aimed at slowing down the progression of the disease and relieve symptoms. 

Nonsurgical Treatment

In the earlier stages of the condition, your doctor will likely recommend a non-surgical treatment approach including:

Oral Medications

Prescription or over the counter NSAIDs often help reduce inflammation and pain from osteoarthritis. It is possible that a prescription steroid medication might be necessary to properly reduce symptoms if NSAIDs are not adequate.

Orthotic Devices

Custom shoe inserts may be prescribed to support the foot’s mechanics or cushion it to reduce pain.


Bracing restricts motion and supports the affected joint. It can help reduce pain during walking and can prevent the condition from getting worse.


Wearing a cast or removable boot can protect the foot from movement. This might be necessary to resolve the inflammation.

meeting with patient about gout treatment

Steroid Injections

Steroid injections at the site of the affected joint are used to deliver localized anti-inflammatory medication which will reduce pain and swelling.

Physical Therapy

Exercises to strengthen the muscles that cross the painful joint helps provide stability and keeps the condition from worsening.

Surgical Treatment

Surgery helps once osteoarthritis has progressed and may improve pain if non-surgical treatments have failed. For advanced cases, surgery might be the only option. The goal of surgery is to decrease pain associated with osteoarthritis, to improve the range of motion/function of the joint, and to improve any mechanical abnormalities contributing to the issue. Treatment plans would be individualized for each patient depending on the specific symptoms and their causes. Some of the most common procedures considered for osteoarthritis include arthroscopic surgery, fusion of the joint, and joint replacement surgery. Other surgeries designs for increase stability of change the mechanics of the foot may also be considered.

Relieve Osteoarthritis Pain at Keir Foot & Ankle

Patients in Morgan Park, Mount Greenwood and Beverly trust Keir Foot & Ankle when they are experiencing osteoarthritis. We have the expertise necessary to provide excellent care to each patient that we see. Don’t wait for your condition to get worse before you seek help. Contact us today to start feeling relief from osteoarthritis pain.

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