Foot arthrosis: see the symptoms and causes. What is the treatment?

The osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease that affects thousands of people. It can manifest in any joint in the body, being quite common in the spine, knees and shoulders.

However, it is not uncommon for this condition to affect the feet or ankles. Check out how this happens, what are the symptoms and possible treatments:


What is foot arthrosis?

Arthrosis, or osteoarthritis (medical term), is a condition that causes cartilage degeneration – that is, wear and tear on the joints. Wear can occur naturally, due to advancing age, or early due to excessive or incorrect use of a certain joint.

Therefore, this condition often causes pain and causes limitations and difficulties in moving the affected area. However, the main symptoms are still pain, swelling, heat and redness in the area affected by arthrosis.

These problems occur because it is the function of the articular cartilage to prevent friction between the bones, provide support and cushion impacts. Therefore, when wear occurs, these features are compromised.

In general, the characteristics of the disease are the same regardless of the affected region. What varies are the consequences: for example, if arthrosis reaches the hands it will impact only that area, making it difficult to move with the fingers, etc.

However, when it reaches the ankle and the foot, it usually compromises the way of walking, resistance to activities that involve standing for a long time, etc.

It is also worth noting that the feet are affected regions with a much lower incidence than the large joints of the human body: knee and hip.

Arthritis or arthrosis: what’s the difference?

The arthritis and osteoarthritis disorders that are part of a class of disorders, called rheumatism , which comprises more than 100 different diseases affecting the liquids that comprise the human body (joint fluid, blood, etc.).

What differentiates the two situations is that arthrosis (or osteoarthritis) is the disease inflammatory joint. Arthritis, on the other hand, is the condition that generates inflammation of the joint – that is, it is the common symptom of several rheumatological diseases. Thus, it is she who causes the appearance of pain, swelling and limitations.

Still, the difference is linked to the fact that arthrosis is a disorder that begins in the cartilage , due to wear. In contrast, arthritis begins in the synovial membrane (tissue that lines the joints) due to autoimmune conditions, bacteria, viruses, etc.

What are the causes of foot arthrosis?

In general, arthrosis can occur as a disease of the cartilage in the affected area. In such cases, it is usually associated with issues such as:

  • Natural wear of cartilage (usually related to advancing age);
  • Inflammatory conditions (rheumatoid arthritis, lupus erythematosus);
  • Overweight;
  • Genetic predisposition.

When the disorder originates from these conditions, it characterizes the so-called primary arthrosis .

But, especially when the pathology affects the feet or ankles, it is common that it is due to traumas (sprains, bruises and fractures) that have altered the stability of the joints or the normal relationship between the bones. In this case, it is characterized as post-traumatic arthrosis .

What are the symptoms of arthrosis in the foot?

Usually, the symptoms of arthrosis appear only when the disease is already a little more advanced. That is, when a significant degeneration has already occurred.

Among the most common symptoms are:

  • Pain in the feet and ankles;
  • Joint stiffness – making simple and habitual movements difficult. Thus, it is common for the person, over time, to have limitations and to walk badly (limping as the pain progresses);
  • Swollen, hot and reddish joints – which also makes it difficult to perform simple tasks.

These are the main signs of arthrosis, which becomes more evident when symptoms persist for some period of time. Thus, indicating that it is a chronic problem.

Therefore, it is important to monitor any changes in the normal functioning of the body. Whenever symptoms persist, it is essential to seek medical help.

Can arthrosis affect the big toe?

-Yeah . Arthrosis can affect any joint in the feet, including the toes.

When the pathology affects the big toe, it causes its common characteristics. That is, it makes the joint more rigid and with less movement.

In addition, in some cases the bones may increase in size, which can generate a lump next to the base of the big toe, which is called a bunion (popularly known as a bunion) – when this lump appears on the little toe, it is called a bunionette.

How do I know if I have osteoarthritis?

In general, the first evidence of arthrosis occurs from the appearance of the most common symptoms (pain, swelling and stiffness of the joints). Usually, when these characteristics persist for a certain time, it may be that the person is in a condition of arthrosis.

However, like any pathology, it also needs a medical diagnosis. Therefore, if these symptoms manifest in a certain area and persist, it is essential to seek help from a professional.

How is the diagnosis of arthrosis made?

Arthrosis is a condition that needs a clinical diagnosis, which is performed by professionals specialized in rheumatology .

In this sense, to ensure an accurate and reliable diagnosis, it is normal for exams such as:

  • Simple radiography ( x-ray ) – image examination;
  • Magnetic resonance – image examination that, from the formation of a magnetic field, allows the analysis of neurological, orthopedic, cardiac diseases, etc;
  • Tomography – image exam that captures high definition images and, thus, allows to detect very small changes in bones, tissues, organs and other structures of the body.

For some of these tests, some prior care may be necessary, as in the case of magnetic resonance imaging – sometimes the patient needs to drink a liquid called “contrast” before performing the examination. So, always follow medical instructions.

Can arthrosis in the foot be cured?

No . As we saw in a previous topic, arthrosis is a chronic and degenerative pathology. So, it is only possible to stop the progress of the disease but there is no way to recover the worn cartilage. So there is still no cure.

Despite this, the correct performance of the treatments indicated by health professionals can significantly reduce the progression of the disease and, mainly, alleviate the symptoms. Thus, providing a higher quality of life to the carrier person.

What is the treatment for foot arthrosis?

Considering that arthrosis is a disease that still has no cure, its care is palliative. This means that they do not aim to eliminate the pathology, but rather to improve the quality of life of the carrier.

In cases of arthrosis in the foot, the following treatments are mainly indicated:


Drug treatment is of paramount importance for cases of osteoarthritis, in addition to being one of the most common (if not the most).

However, even so, multidisciplinary intervention is necessary for better effects – that is, it is necessary to carry out more than one type of treatment at the same time.

In general, the first indication of medication is an analgesic (such as Advil or Paracetamol ). This is because they work by providing pain relief. But in severe cases of the disease, continuous use of painkillers is not recommended, as they can cause dependence.

Therefore, the need to always be accompanied by a doctor is reinforced and never to carry out the treatment independently.

It is worth mentioning that, in some cases, the use of anti-inflammatory drugs , such as Cataflam D , may be recommended – which also need medical monitoring for their administration, because mainly for the elderly (group at risk of the disease) these medications can cause problems kidney.

In addition to these, there are remedies such as Dinaflex , which has glucosamine sulfate as an active ingredient . This substance acts so that the degenerative process occurs more slowly – which is very beneficial in cases of arthrosis.

In that sense, some collagens may also help. However, regardless of the case, it is important to know that self-medication is always discouraged.


As it is a more invasive treatment, surgery is generally not the first treatment option, being indicated when the patient does not respond satisfactorily to the most conservative – or when the condition is intense.

So, in advanced cases of osteoarthritis in the feet and ankles, surgery to fix two bones between them may be recommended: arthrodesis. In addition to promoting the complete elimination of pain, this method also allows the correction of deformities that may have occurred as a result of the disease.

There is also the option of performing an Ankle Arthroplasty, which consists of replacing the joint with a metallic prosthesis – which is already quite common in cases of arthrosis in the hip or knee.

However, although arthroplasty is a safe and efficient procedure, it cannot be performed by all people, considering that some bone conditions and alignment of the leg, ankle and foot are necessary to achieve positive results.


Physiotherapeutic treatments can be performed based on different techniques, such as exercise, transcutaneous electrical stimulation (TENS), laser therapy, physiotherapy massages, etc.

In the case of osteoarthritis treatment, these activities are performed in order to strengthen the muscles around the joints. In general, professionals recommend light and low intensity exercises to improve the problem.

In addition, physiotherapy always needs to be done with professional monitoring and according to medical indications. It is also worth noting that it does not act alone, but in a complementary way with other treatments.

Is there home treatment?

As mentioned in the previous topic, treatments for cases of osteoarthritis are always palliative. In other words, they aim to provide a higher quality of life for the carrier.

Therefore, there are some precautions that can be taken at home to help reduce symptoms and strengthen joints. But there is no home treatment that can really be satisfactory on its own.

For example, based on medical recommendations, you can start using orthopedic insoles daily in your shoes. They are usually made to measure, with the aim of correcting a wrong step or aligning some deformity in the feet. With this, they assist in the alignment of the joints and in their functioning.

In addition, you can ask a doctor or physiotherapist for advice on what exercises you can do at home.

Recalling that it is quite normal for treatments to be carried out in a complementary way, which reinforces the need to always have the help of professionals and never carry out treatments independently.

Arthrosis in the foot retires?

In some cases, yes . There is no law that guarantees immediate retirement in cases of pathologies such as osteoarthritis.

However, Law 8,213 / 91 deals with the conditions and benefits of Social Security – among them, there is disability retirement.

But it is important to keep in mind that, in such cases, it is necessary that the person undergoes an expertise . So, it is necessary to present exams and medical reports, in order to prove the disability situation.

Therefore, it is worth reinforcing that the arthrosis itself does not retire . Early retirement can occur in cases of disability or in other specific situations.

How to prevent osteoarthritis?

In many cases, osteoarthritis is a condition that comes from genetic predisposition or simply due to old age – which naturally leads to the wear and tear of cartilage.

However, to prevent early osteoarthritis it is possible to take some precautions:

Body weight control

Especially when arthrosis manifests itself in the ankles or feet, it can be associated with problems involving overweight.

This is because, in this way, the joints become overloaded and start to wear out faster – which can lead to early osteoarthritis.

Therefore, this is one more reason to maintain a balanced diet and to carry out periodic monitoring with professionals, in order to maintain an ideal weight for your health, within your limitations and individual characteristics.


It is not new that the practice of physical exercises is good for health. However, for the prevention of diseases such as osteoarthritis, it is a fundamental step.

This is because during the practice of physical activities we are working on our muscles and joints – which reduces damage and impacts on the joints, which protects it and prevents an early degeneration.

However, it is always important to have the assistance of a professional to assist you, as an incorrect practice or with a high impact load can aggravate or cause joint problems.

Even though arthrosis is a condition that has no cure, its treatment is of paramount importance and in the vast majority of cases it has positive effects on the patient.

If you have identified yourself with one or more of the symptoms mentioned in this article, contact a specialist.

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