The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

Joint Replacement Surgery and Other Options For Treating Foot Arthritis

Posted by on Friday, November 22nd, 2013

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Arthritis is arguably the biggest challenge in orthopedics today. This type of trauma may be caused by overuse throughout the years or through genetics, but is painful either way. Joint replacement therapy is considered one of the hallmarks of foot arthritis treatment, but is it right for you? NYC podiatrists from The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine discuss this and other treatments available to patients suffering from the chronic inflammation and joint pain associated with arthritis.

rheumatoid arthritis feet
This handy infographic explains rheumatoid arthritis, including signs, symptoms, demographics, and statistics. Image Source: AvailClinical.com

What Can Joint Replacement Therapy Do For Your Arthritis?

Though rarely used as a first measure of treatment, joint replacement can be a cure for arthritis that involves removing all the damaged cartilage and resurfacing the joint. People with severe and crippling pain see the biggest benefit, with up to a 90% success rate, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer

“Joint replacements can help to alleviate pain in an arthritic toe joint,” says NYC foot care specialist Dr. Katherine Lai. “The implant allows you to be able to move your toe, as opposed to fusing the arthritic joint — which also alleviates pain, but permanently stiffens the toe.”

toe arthritis
Types of toe arthritis include osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Image Source: JMorrow50.WordPress.com

Other Options For Treatment

Before seeking joint replacement surgery, a New York podiatrist may discuss the following options with you:

– Supplements: Glucosamine sulfate, chondroitin, and Omega 3 fatty acids / fish oil show the most promise in the treatment of patients with arthritis.

– Exercise: You should never be in pain for more than an hour after a workout, but symptoms of mild and moderate arthritis can be diminished through basic range-of-motion and strength training exercises.

– Anti-inflammatories: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can decrease pain and swelling, although long-term use has been associated with gastrointestinal issues and cardiovascular problems.

– Corticosteroid injections: Short-term (three to six month) relief has been known to help some patients. There are no long-term complications, but doctors say one should limit their use to three injections a year at most.

– Platelet rich plasma injections: This new treatment involves taking small amounts of your own blood, spinning it down, and injecting the platelets back into areas of pain to stimulate natural healing. Early studies show it may improve pain and function in up to 73 percent of patients. This treatment is often used on athletes, but is still considered “experimental” — so it is not covered by insurance. Out-of-pocket costs are $350 to $1,000 per injection, with three injections as the standard course of treatment.

– Arthroscopic surgery: At one time, arthroscopic surgery for arthritis was all we had, and results were mixed. One study showed that placebo surgery was more effective than the procedure itself! Generally, a third of patients will get better from a toe fusion, a third will stay the same, and a third will continue to get worse. Instead, we often refer patients to physical therapy first to see if that does them some good.

joint replacement therapy
A man participates in physical therapy following joint replacement therapy for foot and toe arthritis. Image Source: MC.Vanderbilt.edu

The Bottom Line:

“In the right situation, a great toe joint replacement can truly lead to significantly decreased pain and can have excellent outcomes long-term,” say Dr. Nadia Levy, a NYC podiatrist. “The technology and materials have improved tremendously over the past few decades.”

Even so, joint replacement therapy is not recommended for patients that have minor aches and pains or for 20-year-olds who want to continue running marathons, golfing, and playing tennis. Patients should have realistic expectations for recovery and be willing to modify their activities to continue experiencing decreased pain.

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If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.