Picture this: a 66-year-old athlete goes to the doctor complaining of ankle pain. This woman runs considerable distances every week and says she’s participated in 14 triathlons in the last few months. The doctor takes some x-rays and finds severe ankle osteoarthritis. He cannot believe the x-rays he took correspond to this person who can still be so active.
While this is a fictional patient, the lesson she offers is clear and real:
Regular exercise can reduce the symptoms of osteoarthritis.
Osteoarthritis refers to the breakdown of the cartilage in your joints to prevent bones from rubbing against each other. Regular exercise can ease the pain of bone rubbing against bone because it strengthens the surrounding muscles. Strong muscles help to protect and support arthritic joints.
Any joint in the body is subject to loss of cartilage. During May Arthritis Awareness Month, board-certified podiatrist Kenneth R. Wilhelm, DPM focuses on how exercise can help tone the muscles in your feet and ankles. Here are eight exercises to consider:
- Swimming (don’t forget to kick)
- Taking a water aerobics class
- Doing ankle circles
- “Writing the alphabet” in the air using your toes
- Standing on one leg
- Performing standing calf raises – lift onto your toes, then lower your heels back down
- Lifting weights, including lifting while standing on one leg
You can do many of these exercises just about anywhere—practice standing on one leg while waiting in line for your COVID vaccine. Lift one foot off the floor and quietly circle your ankle around while you’re standing in church or synagogue.
Exercise is great not only for easing arthritis pain but also for slowing down its progression. But if that’s not enough, there are other ways Dr. Wilhelm can help. Medications, steroid injections, physical therapy, and orthotic shoe inserts are all non-invasive treatments. Surgery, including ankle reconstruction, may also be an option.
If you need help with arthritis pain in your feet or ankles, don’t hesitate to contact Clifton Foot & Ankle Center in Fairfax County, Virginia. Call our Centreville office at (703) 996-3000 or make an appointment online.