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Arthritis isn't just about painful or knarred hands. Arthritis can also impact your feet.

Arthritis means "joint inflammation". When it affects joints of the foot, it can produce swelling and pain and may eventually result in deformity, loss of joint function and decrease ability to walk. Besides being painful, Arthritis affects quality of life, particularly when it impacts the foot and ankle making loss of mobility another factor in declining health. 


The OPMA is pleased to provide a monthly brief overview of a different health condition or health priority and its symptoms that impact foot health. In the month of January, the focus is on the chronic condition of arthritis.

Condition Description

Arthritis is a general term for a group of more than 100 diseases. Arthritis means “joint inflammation.” When it affects joints of the foot, it can produce swelling and pain and may eventually result in deformity, loss of joint function and decreased ability to walk.

The most common form of foot arthritis is Osteoarthritis. Similar symptoms may be caused by another form of arthritis, Rheumatoid Arthritis. Arthritis that affects the joint of the big toe is known as “hallux rigidus.”  Common causes of hallux rigidus are faulty function (biomechanics) and structural abnormalities of the foot that can lead to Osteoarthritis in the big toe joint.  Early signs and symptoms include:

  • Pain and stiffness in the big toe during use (walking, standing, bending, etc.)
  • Pain and stiffness aggravated by cold, damp weather
  • Difficulty with certain activities (running, squatting)
  • Swelling and inflammation around the joint


Arthritis is an important indicator of population health because it is a highly prevalent chronic condition. More than 4.5 million Canadians live with arthritis according to ACE : Arthritis Consumer Experts. In fact, arthritis ranks in the top three of chronic health conditions. 60% of Canadians with arthritis are between 15 and 60 years of age. Arthritis affects people of both genders and all races. One in 1,000 children in Canada has arthritis. The over 100 different types of arthritis fall into two main groups:

Osteoarthritis—is caused by a breakdown of cartilage in joints causing bones to rub together resulting in pain, stiffness and eventual loss of use. There are some forms of Osteoarthritis that appear to be genetically driven, and others that are a result of injury, overuse or advanced age.

Inflammatory Arthritis—is a general term used to describe autoimmune forms of the disease. In inflammatory arthritis, the body's own immune system attacks healthy joints and tissues, causing inflammation and joint damage. Rheumatoid Arthritis is the most common form of inflammatory arthritis.


Osteoarthritis is considered a wear-and-tear disease. As the cartilage deteriorates and gets thinner, the bones lose their protective covering and eventually may rub together, causing pain and inflammation of the joint. Sometimes osteoarthritis is exacerbated as a result of abnormal foot mechanics. 

People with Osteoarthritis in the foot or ankle experience, in varying degrees, one or more of the following:

 Pain and stiffness in the joint
 Swelling in or near the joint
 Difficulty walking or bending the joint  

Some patients with osteoarthritis also develop a bone spur (a bony protrusion) at the affected joint.


Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is a disease in which certain cells of the immune system malfunction and attack healthy joints. RA causes inflammation in the lining (synovium) of joints, most often the joints of the hands and feet. When joints become inflamed due to RA, the synovium thickens and produces an excess of joint fluid causing swelling and damage to the joint’s cartilage and bones. Foot conditions associated with RA may include:

 Rheumatoid nodules (lumps), which cause pain when they rub against shoes or, if they appear on the bottom of the foot, pain when walking
 Dislocated toe joints
 Heel pain

Foot problems caused by RA include deformities, pain, swelling, joint stiffness and difficulty walking. 


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