A UK study has found that foot osteoarthritis affects about 1 in 5 people over the age of 50. They found the majority of affected people found the condition moderately or severely disabling and have difficulty doing everyday activities such as walking, standing, housework and shopping.
That’s a lot of people! It is about the same number who have hip and knee osteoarthritis and yet very little funding of research into helping these people with foot osteoarthritis is available.
The study concentrated on looking at the joints in the arch of the foot. This is an area much ignored in my experience. If any research is done at all it tends to be at the base of the big toe (bunions).
The researchers at Keele University’s Arthritis Research Centre studied more than 5,000 people with foot osteoarthritis. They found, in general, it affects more women than men, and people who have done a lot of manual work are more likely to get it.
Why Is There So Little Research On Foot Osteoarthritis?
I wonder whether this is due to the complicated anatomy of the foot. When you look at the foot it is a miracle of biological engineering.
For example if you took the weight of a man as 150lbs and the foot size as being 10. Allowing 20 inches² in contact with the ground then that would give 150/20 pounds of pressure or 7.5 psi. Obviously that pressure dramatically increases by walking, running or jumping.
Most of the shock absorbency of the foot comes from the flexing and twisting of the arch so it is a vital piece of our mechanics as it protects the whole of the body. It also is a big part of balance. When it goes wrong it is
b) Has a major impact on the amount of force going through the rest of the body.
c) Gives us problems balancing
The problem is it is very difficult to replicate a foot mechanically. (Just think of all robots you have seen and how unsteady on their feet they are!) This means it very difficult to do joint replacements in the foot. As most research is funded by companies who want to sell stuff (e.g. hip and knee replacements which are much simpler joints) you can suddenly see why so little research is being done into foot osteoarthritis.
What Can You Do Of You Have Foot Osteoarthritis?
Foot osteoarthritis can be treated in the same way as a hip or knee, except for the joint replacements.
You need to makes some simple lifestyle changes so you don’t aggravate the condition and then do physical therapy specifically for foot osteoarthritis to improve the foot mechanics which will reduce the inflammation and pain.