We love the images of basketball players soaring through the air for a layup, or dancers performing amazing moves to music. However, we tend to shy away from images of aging and the limitations it can sometimes place on our movements. As baby boomers enter a new stage of life, we become more aware of a strong association between growing older and arthritis, but living with osteoarthritis (OA) doesn’t have to mean sitting on a couch all day in pain.
Assessing Your Risk of OA
Arthritis is inflammation and breakdown in your joints. While it is true that most cases occur in people over 50, age is not the only risk factor. Previous injury, a history of overuse, being obese, and having other family members with the condition can increase your risk of developing it sooner. So can any deformity that changes the way your joints function—such as having one leg shorter than the other.
You can protect your joints throughout life with proper nutrition, sensible exercise, adequate rest time in between workouts, and reducing stress on them by starting new activities gradually. These measures are particularly important if you have a job that requires long hours on your feet, bending and lifting, or any repetitive movement that can damage the cartilage in your joints.
Losing the Lining in Your Joints
Bones in your joints move past each other all the time, but abrasion is lessened by a layer of rubbery cartilage at the ends of them. This tissue helps protect the bones, but over time, and with repetitive movement, it can break down. In advanced stages of osteoarthritis, it can wear down so far that the bones are grating together. This can start to break down the bone tissue itself and cause bone spurs to develop or chips of bone or cartilage to detach and move around inside the joint.
These factors make it difficult to move the joint. Stiffness is one of the first symptoms of the disease, closely followed by pain. Any joint in the foot can be affected, but it often strikes the base of the big toe. Think of all the stress and pressure this joint absorbs as you push off from it with every step!
Symptoms are often worse in the morning and may subside as your joints loosen up throughout the day. The can also be worse at night after a long day of movement. Pain and stiffness make it hard to walk, climb stairs, or even balance yourself as you lift heavy objects.
Movement Hurts, but Movement Also Helps
Damage to the cartilage cannot be undone, so treatment for this condition is focused on managing your pain and stiffness, keeping flexible and active, and staying at a good weight.
Although you may hesitate to move when your joints hurt, studies show that regular exercise is one of the best ways to manage osteoarthritis symptoms. It has the added advantage of also burning calories to help you maintain a proper weight.
Exercise can be as simple as walking around the block or as complicated as learning yoga poses that help keep you limber and balanced. Strength training can be very beneficial, because strong muscles can take some of the pressure off your joints. Anything that improves your cardiovascular health will also give you more stamina and energy for activity.
Treatments for Osteoarthritis in Maricopa County
If you begin to experience symptoms that may indicate arthritis in your feet, visit our Phoenix area experts at Advanced Foot & Ankle Specialists of Arizona promptly for diagnosis and treatment. There are many ways we can help manage your pain including medication, physical therapy, custom orthotics, and starting you with stretching and exercises for arthritis to help keep your joints in the best shape possible.
You can reach us by phone at our Gilbert, AZ office at (480) 981-1800 or at our Chandler location by calling (480) 963-9000. Check our website for more information about our services or other conditions in your feet. You can also connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google+ to learn more about foot care.