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StepEase Podiatry / Conditions  / Managing Rheumatoid Arthritis with Custom Orthotics

Managing Rheumatoid Arthritis with Custom Orthotics

Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory disease that often presents in the feet. It attacks the body joints and will result in swelling, joint dislocation and the degeneration of bones and cartilages. The condition can be extremely painful. The disease causes joint stiffness as well as soreness and after a while will cause sufferers to change their posture and gait.

Many rheumatoid arthritis patients suffer through periods where the pain intensifies as the inflammation flares up followed by periods of relatively little discomfort.

It is important to seek treatment as early as possible. If left untreated, rheumatoid arthritis can result in:
  • Weakened foot ligaments,
  • Retraction of the toes, causing them to point away from the big toe
  • Pain in the ball of the foot
  • The formation of nodules on the feet
  • Swelling
  • Increased prominence of forefoot bones

The podiatrist plays a vital role in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis that presents in the feet.

The podiatrist has several goals while treating rheumatoid arthritis. These goals are to relieve pain, slow or prevent further degeneration and to keep the patient in a comfortable state as possible.

The level of foot care required will vary with the severity of the condition, however, the sooner a consultation with a podiatrist is sought, the easier it will be to structure an appropriate treatment program that will alleviate pain and aid comfortable movement.

There are several options available to the podiatrist these include:

  • Palliative foot care including nail care and the treatment of problem areas such as calluses, corns and tough skin.
  • Treatment of foot ulcers that may occur as a result of rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Specialist advice about footwear choices
  • Specialist advice about the lower limbs and the management of rheumatoid arthritis – this advice will extend to the management of acutely inflamed joints, exercise and surgical options.
  • The prescription of appropriate orthotic devices to aid in pain relief and normal movement.

Research has consistently shown that the use of custom made orthotics has helped to significantly reduce pain and aid patients in moving with comfort. This can be critical, as regular exercise is seen as a vital component in the effective management of rheumatoid arthritis.

Properly designed custom orthotics can reduce the pressure between the surface beneath the foot and the sole of the foot which will help to reduce the pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis. The subsequent reduction in pain levels will help the patient to increase exercise – which is known to be one of the best ways to relieve the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis .

The increased ability to exercise has wider health benefits possibly reducing the risk of circulatory difficulties and heart disease that rheumatoid arthritis sufferers are known to suffer from in disproportionate numbers.

Custom orthotics, therefore, can have a great effect on the patient’s ability to manage their condition and relieve the pain associated with this disease. A podiatrist can prescribe a custom made orthotic device that will make a great difference to the patient’s overall quality of life.

This article was based on research articles published by the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, BMJ Open Sport & Exercise and the Journal of Athletic training.

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