Summer is a beautiful season in and around Carson City, Lake Tahoe, and the Sierra Nevada. Gorgeous weather, beautiful colors, and all the outdoor activities you could want—swimming, hiking, biking, fishing, camping, or whatever you like best.
Of course, if you’re suffering from arthritis in your feet or ankles, your list of activities might be substantially more modest—and not by choice. It’s hard to get motivated to enjoy the nice weather when you know your feet are going to be aching within minutes.
But that’s not the end of the story! By changing up some of your habits and employing good pain management strategies, you can find ways to increase your activity level and relieve some of the pain, discomfort, and mobility loss you might be experiencing.
Here are some ways to ease your foot and ankle arthritis this summer:
Choose the Right Footwear
If you have arthritis in your feet, ankles, or even your knees and hips, you might be surprised at how big of a difference shoes can make in your life.
The right pair of shoes will provide proper support for the arch and ample cushioning for your heel, reducing the amount of weight and pressure shouldered by aching and arthritis joints. A good pair of shoes will also give the toes plenty of room to wiggle, rather than being cramped into a pointy or narrow toe box.
Of course, in the summertime you might prefer to ditch your closed-toed shoes entirely and throw on a pair of sandals. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, you do need to be careful.
Cheap flip flops, for example, can be extremely hard on arthritic feet. They offer barely any support or shock absorption, and they can even force you to alter your entire gait pattern just so they don’t flop right off your feet!
Instead, look for sandals with foot-friendly features. Built-in arch support and cushioning is a must, as are adjustable straps (especially around the back of the ankle) that allow you to perfect the fit and secure the sandal to your feet.
Stretch and Exercise Your Feet and Legs Daily
Now, no amount of exercise is going to restore missing cartilage. But healthy exercise is still extremely valuable for arthritis sufferers for many reasons:
- It strengthens the muscles, ligaments, and tendons that support and move the joint. This allows these softer tissues to support the bones in your joint better and reduce the amount of stress on the joint itself.
- It builds bone strength and density within the joint, so they can better withstand whatever stresses aren’t dissipated by softer tissues.
- It improves flexibility and mobility in the joint, allowing you to reduce stiffness and enjoy greater pain-free range of motion.
- It boosts your energy and stamina and helps you control your weight better.
- You’ll get a better night’s sleep.
Even though you might be afraid that too much exercise will aggravate your arthritic joints, the truth is that well chosen exercises will improve your symptoms—not make them worse.
Gently stretch your feet, toes, and calves daily, as well as before and after exercise. If you’re troubled by foot pain, it’s a good idea to go easy on your joints and emphasize low-impact workouts in your routine. Walking, swimming, water exercises, and cycling are all good sources of cardio that stress your joints much less than, say, running or playing tennis.
Take a Yoga Class
If you’re looking for a less “boring” way to reduce your joint pain through physical activity, joining a local yoga studio for classes is an awesome choice.
All the benefits we just talked about above apply. That means reduced joint stiffness and pain, increased range of motion, more stamina and better sleep—all that good stuff.
On top of that, for many people yoga provides significant mental and emotional benefits. That includes stress relief, teaching breathing and relaxation techniques, and better moods. There’s also a social benefit, since you can take a class with many other people.
One further suggestion: Let your instructor know beforehand about any mobility limitations you might have due to your arthritis. A good yoga instructor will be able to help you choose or modify poses to best fit your needs and abilities.
Seek Professional Care
If the above tips aren’t giving you the relief you need to live the life you want to live, book an appointment with the team at Sierra Foot & Ankle. We have the treatment tools and know-how to address your arthritis pain in a more focused and effective way.
Options might include:
- Custom orthotics. When misalignments and abnormal motion in feet and ankles can’t be accommodated with shoes alone, custom orthotics can bridge the gap. Think of them like glasses or contacts, except for the feet instead of the eyes. They’re fashioned with your exact prescription so they fit your feet perfectly and provide the exact support, cushioning, and retraining your feet need. We have our own on-site orthotics lab where we make and adjust them.
- Injections. In some joints, arthritis pain can be successful managed with injection of a gel-like substance called Synvisc. The material in Synvisc (hyaluronan) is a natural substance used by joints as a lubricant and shock absorber. One injection can provide six months of pain relief for joints.
- Laser therapy. At the Sierra Foot & Ankle Laser Therapy Center of Excellence, we the latest non-invasive medical laser technology to relieve pain and swelling in soft tissues and around joints. It is particularly effective for rheumatoid arthritis, though in either case it can help reduce stiffness and pain.
Surgery may be an option for severe arthritis that doesn’t respond to any other treatments, though we will always work hard to get your joints working and get you moving using conservative treatment options whenever possible.
If joint pain in your feet and ankles is getting in the way of enjoying your summer activities, give Sierra Foot & Ankle a call today at (775) 783-8037. You can also request an appointment online.