Our feet endure the shock of thousands of steps every day, so it's understandable that they suffer at times. However, if you have rheumatoid arthritis (RA), your feet may be in constant pain. Up to 90% of persons with RA experience daily discomfort in their feet and ankles. In fact, the metatarsal joint (the one that extends out to the side beneath your big toe) may be one of RA's early targets. There are certain things you can do to take your mind off the pain.
Knowing the "why" behind your foot discomfort can help you understand the "how" of relieving it. A quick overview: RA is an autoimmune illness that targets the lining (synovium) and "grease" (synovial fluid) of the joints as its primary target. Your joints become inflamed, swollen, and painful as a result. While rare, it can cause foot deformities if left untreated Disease-modifying antirheumatic medications (DMARDs) are effective RA therapy that help reduce inflammation and pain. To find out the root cause of your foot pain, visit a pain management clinic.
When your RA symptoms intensify to the point that they interfere with daily activities like walking to the mailbox or simply getting dressed, it's called a "flare." Making a medication modification was the most common intervention for people with RA in the Brigham and Women's Rheumatoid Arthritis Sequential Trial (BRASS), a 15-year prospective observational study that followed 1,500 people with RA. Increase your current dosage, start a new DMARD, try a short-term corticosteroid, or add a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicine (NSAID) to your regimen by talking to your rheumatologist.
A physical therapist will assess your gait and prescribe exercises to strengthen the foot and ankle muscles, which will help to support your joints, promote flexibility, and relieve pain. If your insurance won't pay for it, consider paying for a few sessions out of pocket and getting a toolkit of therapeutic exercises and stretches that you can perform on your own. The cost of physical therapy varies based on where you reside, but a single session could cost around $150.
Swimming, riding, and Pilates are all exercises that place less stress on your feet, and a physical therapist can help you locate them. Allow your feet to recover and the soreness to subside before resuming your routine. Even so, try to keep workouts as low-impact as possible (squat instead of leaping, march or walk instead of sprinting), but don't completely abandon them! Staying active helps you maintain a healthy weight, which is one of the greatest methods to avoid foot pain. The more weight you put on your joints, the more probable it is that they become irritated.
The cold reduces swelling and numbs pain, virtually providing instant relief. Wrap frozen pea sacks in a thin towel and apply to the affected area for 15 to 20 minutes, depending on whether it's your heel, toes, or arch. Allow for a restoration to normal skin temperature before applying ice once more. Dip your feet in a cryotherapy plunge pool at your gym or local spa for a deep, therapeutic chill. You can also construct one at home with a bucket, a few ice cube trays, and cold water!
Heat therapy is normally used to relieve muscle stiffness (for example, before exercise), however many RA sufferers prefer heat to cold for pain relief. Soak in a lengthy, hot bath or use wet heat packs to your swollen foot and ankle joints. Use a warm, damp washcloth inside a freezer bag to make your own heating pad. Another option is in-office diathermy, which uses a high-frequency electric current (usually ultrasound in RA patients) to produce heat within bodily tissues, improving blood flow and expediting recovery.
Different shoes are recommended by RA patients, but in general, you want a pair with a wider base and substantial cushioning. Clarks, Orthofeet, Brooks, Naturalizer, and Aetrex are some of the most popular brands among RA patients. Ask your podiatrist about shoes with rocker soles, which can help relieve pressure on your forefoot or lessen ankle motion depending on the style.