Your immune system is designed to protect you, but sometimes it can go awry and start to attack your body’s own tissues. This can cause inflammation in your joint lining and lead to a condition known as rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Rheumatoid arthritis pain can strike anywhere in the body, but foot pain and inflammation is an early indicator for many people. At Free Body Physical Therapy, we treat foot and ankle pain with the utmost priority. Continue reading to learn more about how rheumatoid arthritis can affect your feet and how physical therapy can help!

What Is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a prevalent chronic inflammatory disease that causes your immune system to attack healthy cells in your body. This causes painful inflammation and swelling in different parts of the body. RA typically attacks the joints, including those in the feet and ankles. In a joint afflicted with RA, the synovium (joint lining) becomes inflamed. This inflammation causes damage to joint tissues and can lead to lasting chronic pain, deformity, and lack of balance. 

How Does RA Affect The Feet?

Rheumatoid arthritis is a systemic autoimmune disease, and unlike other forms of arthritis, it is not caused by typical wear and tear on the joints. RA affects the tissues surrounding and lubricating the synovium. When these joint surfaces and cartilage are not lubricated, they start to rub and cause wear. While RA is a chronic condition, patients can experience long symptom-free periods mixed with symptomatic periods or flares. Symptoms of RA in the feet can vary for each individual, but most often include:

  • Stiffness and pain in the toes or other joints and ligaments throughout the foot. 
  • Persistent soreness or aching in the feet that worsens after walking, standing, or running for long periods. 
  • Swelling in the toes or ankles. 
  • Warmth in one or more areas of the foot. 

Over time, these symptoms can make it increasingly painful and difficult to use your affected foot. Joint destruction is a long-term symptom that happens when the joint tissue, bone, and cartilage break down. Joint destruction can weaken your foot joints and affect the shape of your foot. 

Physical Therapy For Rheumatoid Arthritis

Most people living with RA take medications to manage their symptoms. However, certain treatment methods can target the feet. Our experienced team at Free Body Physical Therapy can design a comprehensive RA management plan. Physical therapy is a non-invasive practice that helps maintain and restore physical function and movement. While it may seem counterintuitive, staying active can relieve symptoms in your feet. Regular exercise helps strengthen muscles, keep joints flexible, and reduce pain in all joints. 

Our team can help you find comfortable ways to stay active without aggravating your foot pain

and help you achieve optimal function. Here are some other ways physical therapists can help:

  • Educate you on any imbalance your body may have that would increase stress through your joints.
  • Educate you on proper posture and body mechanics to improve function and relieve
  • pain.
  • Begin strengthening specific muscles that would allow you to move in a more pain free way.
  • Perform manual techniques to Improve the mobility in your joints to allow for ease of movement with less pain. 

Contact Us

Rheumatoid arthritis can cause excruciating symptoms that affect every part of your feet. Addressing your RA early on can help minimize its impact on your everyday life. At Free Body Physical Therapy, our team is here to help you get moving safely and effectively so you can preserve your ability to perform daily activities. To learn more about how physical therapy can help RA in the feet, be sure to contact our team today!