Arthritis is a painful, limiting and progressively disabling condition that affects over seven million Australians each year. While
everyone’s experience of arthritis will vary, of the over 140 types of arthritis that exist, the three most common types affecting
Australian men and women are:
Despite having very different disease processes, one thing that all of these common types of arthritis have in common is that they very often (and in the case of gout, primarily) affect the feet.
Having arthritic pain in the joints of the feet can significantly affect a person’s quality of life and their ability to perform everyday activities - from taking their dog for a walk to being able to get out in the garden, and even just enjoy quality time with loved ones. Arthritic pain, or the fear of it worsening, also makes many people hesitate when it comes to engaging in exercise or even gentle physical activity, a factor that can have damaging consequences for a person’s overall health and well-being. As such, effectively managing arthritis and arthritic foot pain is a key priority for our podiatrists across our Brisbane CBD and Newmarket clinics. So how can we help - and what makes our services very different from the care your GP can provide?
There’s a common misconception that there isn’t that much more that can be done to help with arthritic foot pain aside from taking pain-relieving medications to ease the discomfort, or in the case of rheumatoid arthritis and gout, taking methotrexate or allopurinol respectively to help prevent the arthritic flares.
The reality is that while it’s true that nothing can reverse the joint damage that has already been caused by arthritis, there is a lot that can be done to alleviate your pain and support your walking that does not involve medications. This includes:
With foot arthritis, many of our patients are troubled with stiff, restricted, swollen, prominent and otherwise irregular joints that make it uncomfortable, painful or difficult to walk. Walking on painful joints can also cause them to adjust the way they walk to try to help alleviate their foot pain, which can then lead to a range of other pains and problems.
Custom foot orthotics (insoles) are prescription devices that alter the way your foot is positioned and the way it functions inside of your shoe. We prescribe each pair uniquely for our patients with arthritis after completing a comprehensive assessment so we know not only exactly which joints are stiff and most affected during walking, but how the entire foot and gait is being affected as a result. We also complete an in-shoe pressure analysis, as well as 3D scan of the foot as a starting base of our orthotics. This is one of the ways we ensure that your orthotics are perfect for you.
For arthritic joints, your orthotics may contain a range of features - from cut-outs beneath prominent joints that immediately ease the pressure (and therefore pain) off them with each step (we call this offloading), to giving stiff and stuck joints greater support beneath the joint, preventing it from being forced into a compressed, abnormal and painful position during gait. We will also strategically use a variety of pads and carefully select our materials with the goal of helping reduce your pain while improving your comfort and mobility as you continue to stay active.
We are well-known for our orthotics and take extreme care to make a very careful and comprehensive prescription for you - this is very different from a ‘one-size-fits-all’ padded insert you many see at a chemist or from a practitioner that does not specialise in foot health and orthotics.
MLS laser is a painless, gentle laser that uses two wavelengths of light that deeply penetrate the joints, tissues and cells beneath. This eases both chronic and acute pain, accelerates healing, reduces inflammation, reduces pain, accelerates tissue repair, improves joint mobility and generally promotes optimal cell function. This makes it perfect for arthritic pain, both for osteoarthritis and inflammatory arthritis such as gout and RA.
For those having surgery for arthritic joints, MLS laser can help improve your healing time while reducing the formation of scar tissue.
Your shoes can have a powerful influence on the pressure and forces that your feet are exposed to, while affecting the overall support and stability of your foot and ankle as you stay mobile. We’ll assess the level of support and the overall integrity of your current footwear, and make any recommendations for new shoes or modifications to your existing shoes.
Shoe modifications for osteoarthritis are also a common part of the management plan, depending on which joints have been affected and the severity. Footwear modifications can be extremely valuable and pain-relieving in specific cases like severe big toe osteoarthritis to reduce the pressure and time spent on the big toe - thereby effortlessly supporting your mobility and comfort. We find rocker soles over different areas of the foot to be very beneficial.
Lacing techniques are also worth a mention here - as certain arthritic changes to the feet can make standard shoe lacing uncomfortable and painful. In cases like midfoot arthritis, we may suggest trying alternative lacing techniques like a box lace to better accommodate and support your midfoot.
Foot mobilisation is a hands-on therapy that uses gentle, targeted movements of your foot and ankle to help increase joint flexibility and movement without any medication, needles or surgery. By helping to ‘free’ the joints and improve their alignment and function, pain is reduced and healthy movement is encouraged. A person’s suitability for foot mobilisation is assessed on a case-by-case basis, and it may not be suitable for those with severely stiff or disfigured joints, as well as those currently experiencing painful flares.
As part of your treatment plan, we may also include a series of gentle prescription exercises that are designed to help strengthen weak muscles that may be affecting your mobility, as well as stretch tight muscles. We understand that the idea of ‘exercises’ may seem unrealistic or unpleasant when you’re already suffering from painful foot arthritis. Any exercises we do add to your treatment plan will be simple, gentle and very achievable for you. We do not believe in giving general exercise prescriptions without carefully considering a person’s unique circumstances, needs and goals.
Yes we can. One example is the use of orthotics to help with arthritis in the inner (medial) knee. Osteoarthritis can cause the cartilage in the knee joint to thin, leading to joint damage, pain, stiffness and knee pain when walking. Research confirmed that orthotics with specific additions on the outside of the orthotic (lateral wedging) can help reduce the symptoms in the inner knee compartment, and that this kind of orthotic use can produce the same results as orthotics paired with a knee brace, removing the need to wear this brace for some people.
We also use MLS laser to help relieve pain and inflammation for arthritis, which we find can significantly improve a person’s comfort and quality of life.
We take the time to get to know you, carefully complete a wide range of assessments, and consider all of the available options to help you meet your goals. By the end of your first appointment with us, you will:
If your daily life is being interrupted by arthritic foot pain, we invite you to book in for a consultation with us to see how we can help improve your pain levels, your comfort, and your quality of life.
Book your appointment with our podiatrists in our Brisbane CBD or Newmarket clinics online here or call us on 1300 993 338.