Degenerative arthritis is a condition that slowly wears away joints (the link where bones meet and move). In the beginning, the affected joint will be stiff and may ache; however, as the joint lining (cartilage) breaks down, the bones rub together and cause pain and swelling. Over time, bone spurs (small pieces of rough or splintered bone) develop, and the joint’s range of motion becomes limited.


Your feet pound the pavement every day while supporting and propelling your body as you move through life. Aging, the wear and tear of daily use, and injury—these are the common causes of arthritis. Many people eventually develop some arthritis in their feet.

Big Toe Joint:
When arthritis affects your big toe, your foot hurts when it pushes off the ground. Arthritis often appears in the big-toe joint along with a bunion (a bony bump at the side of the joint).

Other Joints:
When arthritis affects the rear or mid-foot joints, you feel pain when you put weight on your foot. Arthritis may affect the joint where the ankle and foot meet. It may also affect other joints nearby.

Physical Exam:

To learn the cause of your joint problem, your doctor asks about your medical history, examines your feet for skin changes and swelling. The range of motion in any joint affected by arthritis may be tested as well. With a simple hands-on test, your doctor can find out how far a joint moves before pain occurs.


If your symptoms are mild, medications may be enough to reduce pain and swelling. For more severe arthritis, surgery may be needed to improve the condition of the joint.

Your doctor may prescribe medication—pills or injections—to limit pain and swelling. Ice, aspirin, or ibuprofen may help relieve mild symptoms that occur after activity.

To ease movement and reduce pain, your doctor may trim damaged bone. If arthritis is severe, the joint may be fused or removed.

  • Trimming Bones: If the bone is not damaged too badly, your doctor may simply shave away bone spurs. Any excess bone growth related to a bunion may also be trimmed
  • Fusing Joints: If damage is more severe, your doctor may fuse the joint to prevent the bones from rubbing
  • Afterward, staples or screws may hold the bones in place so they heal properly. In some cases, the joint may be removed and replaced with an implant

After Surgery:

During the early stages of recovery, your foot is likely to be bandaged and immobilized for a while. For best results, follow up with your doctor as scheduled. These visits help ensure that your foot heals properly.

As You Heal:

After surgery, you’ll be told how to care your incision and how soon to begin walking on the foot. Until the foot can bear weight, you may need to walk with crutches or a cane.

For Surgery on Big Toe:
Your foot may be splinted to limit movement for several weeks. Despite this, you should be able to walk soon after surgery.

For Surgery on Rear or Midfoot Joints:
You need to wear a cases or surgical shoe. These joints are fairly large, so full recovery may take a few months. Once the bone has healed, any staples or screws may be removed.