10 Proven Ways To Get The Pain Relief You Need – Pain Doctor (2023)

Did you know that over half of people in their 60s and 70s have pain from arthritis in feet? What causes this condition and, more importantly, what treatments can you try today to find relief?

What causes arthritis in feet?

The feet are a complex structure in your body. They house not only muscles and ligaments, but also over 28 bones and more than 30 joints that allow you to have a full range of motion. Your feet provide:

  • Shock absorption
  • Balance
  • Support
  • Help with general movement

Unfortunately, as we age, those 30 joints in the feet that have served us so well are highly susceptible to arthritis that can lead to foot pain. In fact:

  • An estimated 40 million U.S. people suffer from arthritis
  • 90% of people who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis experience pain in the foot and ankle joints
  • Almost 50% of people in their 60s and 70s have arthritis-related foot pain
  • An injured joint is seven times more likely to become arthritis over time

Arthritis in feet can affect the toes, especially the big toes, bones in the heel, and the ankle joint itself. There are over 100 kinds of arthritis that can lead to arthritis in feet, but the most common causes are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, and posttraumatic arthritis.


If you’re over the age of 60 and suffer from pain that is worse in the morning, you may be suffering from osteoarthritis. Over time, the cartilage in your joint has worn away with repeated stress and use. As this protective coating gets thinner, the bones can rub together and cause inflammation and pain.

Osteoarthritis is a wear-and-tear disease that is commonly caused by aging. As the American Podiatric Medical Association explains:

“Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. It is frequently called degenerative joint disease or ‘wear and tear’ arthritis. Although it can be brought on suddenly by an injury, its onset is generally gradual; aging brings on a breakdown in cartilage, and pain gets progressively more severe.”

Osteoarthritis in the feet may be caused by:

  • Degenerative effects of aging
  • Abnormal foot structures–such as flat feet or high arches–that lead to excessive strain over time
  • An old injury, such as jamming your toe or spraining your ankle

Rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis differs from osteoarthritis in that it doesn’t occur from aging. In fact, rheumatoid arthritis is a set of symptoms that are caused by abnormalities in the immune system. While the exact cause of these symptoms is unknown, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons explains that:

“Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease. This means that the immune system attacks its own tissues. In rheumatoid arthritis, immune cells attack the synovium covering the joint, causing it to swell. Over time, the synovium invades and damages the bone and cartilage, as well as ligaments and tendons, and may cause serious joint deformity and disability.”

If you suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, or RA, you’ve likely experienced arthritis in feet, toes, or ankles.


Another type of arthritis that’s less common is gout, or gouty arthritis. This condition is due to a buildup of uric acid in the joints. Typically, it affects areas that are furthest away from the heart. In this case, the big toe. As we’ll discuss, there are medications, as well as lifestyle and diet modifications, you can make to reduce your symptoms of gout.

Posttraumatic arthritis

Finally, your arthritis may actually be caused by an old sports injury that happened years ago. Dislocations, sprains, and fractures are the most common injuries that lead to this type of arthritis. Posttraumatic arthritis is similar to osteoarthritis in that the cartilage between joints wears away over time.

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As noted, an injured joint is seven times more likely to become arthritis, even if your injury was properly treated.

10 Proven Ways To Get The Pain Relief You Need – Pain Doctor (1)

What are the signs of arthritis in feet?

If you suffer from foot arthritis, you’ll likely experience the following signs of arthritis:

  • Pain with motion
  • Increased pain after vigorous activity
  • Increased pain in the morning or after rest
  • Joint tenderness
  • Swelling, warmth, or redness in your joints
  • Difficulty walking
  • Large, bony growths, such as bumps, corns, or calluses
  • Skin rashes
  • Clicking and popping noises
  • Difficulty bending the joint
  • Locked joints, in severe cases

For those with arthritis in toes, putting on shoes can be difficult. For others, getting out of bed in the morning can cause excruciating pain. The growths associated with arthritis can even change the shape of your feet. Simply put, foot arthritis can be a serious, debilitating condition that negatively affects your overall quality of life. Thankfully, there are some ways to ease symptoms, as we’ll discuss later.

Rheumatoid arthritis symptoms in feet

If you suffer from rheumatoid arthritis in your feet, you may experience additional or more severe symptoms, including:

  • Fatigue and fever during flare-ups
  • Redness or warmth in the joint
  • Swelling of the joints
  • Skin and nail problems
  • Circulation and nerve problems
  • Extreme pain or stiffness in the morning or after rest
  • Chronic inflammation that makes your toes twist or change shape
  • Rheumatoid nodules, bunions, calluses, or claw toes
  • Symmetrical pain that occurs in the same place in both feet

You can see more pictures of how rheumatoid arthritis affects your joints over on HealthLine. You can also read more about foot rheumatoid arthritis symptoms at the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society.

10 Proven Ways To Get The Pain Relief You Need – Pain Doctor (2)

Can you get arthritis in your feet?

As you age, you face an increased risk of suffering from arthritis in feet or your big toes. Age is the number one risk factor for osteoarthritis.

Other risk factors for arthritis may include:

  • Having an old injury in the feet
  • Heredity
  • Excess weight
  • Comorbid conditions, such as bowel disorders
  • Smoking
  • Being male, in cases of gout
  • Being female, in cases of rheumatoid arthritis

Further, as HealthLine explains, if you wear tight, high-heeled shoes often, you may also be at risk for toe arthritis.

If you have any of these risk factors, and have been experiencing pain, it’s important to talk to a doctor. Cartilage destruction can’t be reversed. Early diagnosis is crucial for treating and managing arthritis.

What is treatment for arthritis in the feet?

There is no cure for arthritis, but the pain associated with it can be reduced drastically for some patients. The goals of treatment are to:

  • Manage symptoms
  • Reduce pain
  • Bring disease into remission
  • Control inflammation
  • Preserve or restore joint function

Many patients find the best foot arthritis treatment is one that uses a number of complementary therapies to find relief. A combination of natural treatments, such as orthotics and exercises, along with medication and interventional strategies can help you get back to your life.

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Natural treatments for foot arthritis

If you suffer from arthritis in the foot or toe arthritis, you have many options to find relief. The most important one is to lose any excess weight. Extra weight puts additional pressure on the joints, leading to an increase in pain. If you lose weight, you can relieve a lot of your pain.

Along with weight-loss, the six other proven natural treatments for arthritis include:

  • Eating an anti-inflammatory diet for arthritis
  • Getting in low-impact exercise, as exercise is one of the most important ways to reduce arthritis pain
  • Getting foot massages to reduce tension in your feet
  • Bracing to support the joint during exercise
  • Finding the right shoes for foot arthritis
  • Performing exercises and stretches for your feet, especially with big toe arthritis

Foot arthritis exercises

To get in those exercise and stretches you need, physical therapy can be crucial. A highly-trained physical therapist can help you find exercises that work to reduce your pain. As Foot Health Facts explains:

“Exercises to strengthen the muscles, especially when osteoarthritis occurs in the ankle, may give the patient greater stability and may help him or her avoid injury that might worsen the condition.”

You can also perform stretching exercises at home. The two following videos are less than ten minutes long, and could even be done during commercials. The goal is to loosen up the joints in the foot and ankle.

Kim McNeildiscusses some strengthening and stretching exercises you can do for foot arthritis.

You can also try the video of yoga exercises for arthritis in the feet from Expert Village.

WebMD also has three exercises you can do to reduce toe arthritis. Always talk to your doctor before starting any new exercise program. They can also suggest other exercises you can try.

Best shoes for arthritis in feet

Shoes for arthritis are another common way to relieve pain. As EveryDay Health explains:

“Wearing comfortable, supportive shoes is key. Shoes should be wide enough so that they don’t press on any bunions or calluses. Skip the high heels because they put more pressure on the balls of your feet. Arch support is essential to stabilize joints that are moving more than they should, which can happen with arthritis, explains Frisch. The toning athletic shoes that are popular these days can be a good choice for foot health.”

The Arthritis Foundation has given their Ease of Use Commendation to the Gravity Defyer brand. These arthritis shoes help take some of the pressure off your foot and are available in multiple widths, depending on your foot.

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It doesn’t stop at the shoes. Talk to your doctor about arthritis compression socks that can also help increase circulation and reduce pain. You can also use orthotics, such as pads in your shoes, to help relieve pressure from growths.

Interventional treatments for arthritis

Once you’ve made changes to your lifestyle, and have incorporated different stretching exercises into your routine, it may be time to talk to your doctor about additional treatments. First-line treatments should always focus on exercise, weight loss, and dietary changes.

After, you may consider these three interventional strategies:

  • Taking medications, such as ibuprofen or topical creams, during pain flare-ups
  • Receiving cortisone injections to provide pain relief and reduce inflammation
  • Getting surgery

Medications and creams can provide short-term relief during acute flare-ups of pain. Joint injections and surgery are longer-term solutions that should only be considered after other strategies have been tried.

Foot joint injections

Joint injections provide relief for a number of months and can help you avoid surgery. The following video shows how a knee joint injection takes place. While not exactly the procedure you’d be undergoing, it does give a good basic overview of joint injections. These procedures are minimally-invasive, largely effective, and have very few side effects.

Foot arthritis surgery

Finally, if no other options have worked to reduce your pain, you may want to talk to your doctor about foot arthritis surgery.As the American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society explains:

“This may mean cleaning the arthritic joint, eliminating the painful motion of the joint, replacing the joint with an artificial joint or a combination of all these.”

Surgery does come with additional risks and side effects. Recovery can take anywhere from four to nine months. However, for those who are suffering from severe arthritis in feet, surgery can be a life-saving solution to help them get back to their lives.

Find help for arthritis in feet

If you suffer from arthritis in the foot, toe, or ankle, there are ways to find relief. You don’t have to live with the pain from arthritis. From lifestyle changes to surgery, you have options. Working a pain specialist who has advanced experience treating patients with arthritis pain is your best bet to getting the relief you need.

You can find a PainDoctor.com-certified pain specialist in your area by clicking the button below. They’ll work closely with you to provide the comprehensive care you need to get back to a life with less pain.

Find Your Pain Doctor

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Weekly updates on conditions, treatments, and news about everything happening inside pain medicine.


How can I get my doctor to give me pain seriously? ›

Here's advice for the next time you need to talk to your doctor about your pain.
  1. Get descriptive: use metaphor and memoir. You can help doctors understand just how debilitating your pain is by being more descriptive. ...
  2. Describe your day. ...
  3. Talk about function, not feeling. ...
  4. Share your treatment history.
23 Jul 2018

What is the best prescription for pain? ›

What are the strongest pain medications?
  • Opioid analgesics, in general, are the strongest pain-relieving medications. ...
  • Codeine is only about 1/10th as powerful as morphine.
  • Opioids more powerful than morphine include hydromorphone (Dilaudid) and oxymorphone (Opana).

What are 3 different types of pain management? ›

pain medicines. physical therapies (such as heat or cold packs, massage, hydrotherapy and exercise) psychological therapies (such as cognitive behavioural therapy, relaxation techniques and meditation) mind and body techniques (such as acupuncture)

What drugs do doctors prescribe for severe pain? ›

Narcotics (also called opioids) are used for moderate to severe pain and require a doctor's prescription. They may be habit-forming. They can also be dangerous when taken with alcohol or certain other drugs. Examples of narcotics are codeine, morphine, and oxycodone.

What does it mean to be red flagged by a doctor? ›

Being 'red flagged' is a term used to signify that there is potentially suspicious behavior in regard to controlled substance abuse, misuse, or diversion. In other words, it is simply a warning sign.

What should I not tell my pain management doctor? ›

Don'ts: Things Pain Patients Wish Doctors Would Avoid
  • Don't label patients. ...
  • Don't tell patients the pain is 'in our heads. ...
  • Don't tell us to just 'live with the pain.

What is the drug of choice for nerve pain? ›

The main medicines recommended for neuropathic pain include: amitriptyline – also used for treatment of headaches and depression. duloxetine – also used for treatment of bladder problems and depression. pregabalin and gabapentin – also used to treat epilepsy, headaches or anxiety.

What injections are given for pain? ›

One of the most common pain management injections is called an epidural steroid injection. This injection is common for lower back pain but may also help with upper back and neck pain. When injected, steroidal medication is injected into the epidural space around the spinal cord.

What is the strongest pain killer? ›

The most powerful pain relievers are opioids. They are very effective, but they can sometimes have serious side effects.

Can a doctor refuse to give pain meds? ›

As someone with a diagnosed, painful condition, your care team has a moral and ethical obligation to help you. In saying this, your physician can refuse you pain medication or deny you as a patient.

What are the 4 types of pain? ›

  • Nociceptive Pain: Typically the result of tissue injury. ...
  • Inflammatory Pain: An abnormal inflammation caused by an inappropriate response by the body's immune system. ...
  • Neuropathic Pain: Pain caused by nerve irritation. ...
  • Functional Pain: Pain without obvious origin, but can cause pain.
29 Apr 2019

What to do when doctors can't diagnose you? ›

What should I do if I can't get a diagnosis? If you think you have an underlying disease that hasn't been diagnosed, you can ask your primary care provider for a referral to a specialist. And if you or your doctor suspect the disease could be genetic, you can always make an appointment at a medical genetics clinic.

How much pain is too much pain? ›

Severe Pain.

When it intensifies to level 8, pain makes even holding a conversation extremely difficult and your physical activity is severely impaired. Pain is said to be at level 9 when it is excruciating, prevents you speaking and may even make you moan or cry out. Level 10 pain is unbearable.

Why painkillers are not working? ›

Hormonal issues, poor metabolism, poor sleep, high blood pressure, or stomach conditions could change the effect of your medications. It is important to inform all of your doctors about any other conditions you may have to help avoid these problems.

Why multiple drugs are given for pain? ›

Because pain involves multiple mechanisms the use of combinations is especially rational. Also the use of two drugs almost always means a combination with lower doses of each, thereby minimizing the adverse events that might be associated with higher doses of a single drug.

How long might it take someone to get addicted to opioids? ›

It takes a couple of weeks to become physically dependent on an opioid, but that varies by individual. If you take an opioid for a day or two, it should not be a problem and, generally, you will not become addicted. However, some studies show even the first dose of an opioid can have physiological effects.

How can you tell if someone is drug seeking? ›

Box 1
  • Indicators of drug-seeking behaviours.
  • Typical requests and complaints. Aggressively complaining about a need for a drug. ...
  • Inappropriate self-medicating. ...
  • Inappropriate use of general practice. ...
  • Resistant behaviour. ...
  • Manipulative or illegal behaviour. ...
  • Other typical behaviours.
1 Jun 2016

How do you find out if your red flagged? ›

Related Articles
  1. Look into your medical history. ...
  2. Go to a reputable pharmacy and ask for a dosage of your regular prescribed medication. ...
  3. If the pharmacist denies you the medication, then you are Red Flagged, as they would have to consult an online system that tracks when your next dosage should be given.

What are the 10 red flag symptoms? ›

Examples of red-flag symptoms in the older adult include but are not limited to pain following a fall or other trauma, fever, sudden unexplained weight loss, acute onset of severe pain, new-onset weakness or sensory loss, loss of bowel or bladder function, jaw claudication, new headaches, bone pain in a patient with a ...

Can a doctor refuse to give pain meds? ›

As someone with a diagnosed, painful condition, your care team has a moral and ethical obligation to help you. In saying this, your physician can refuse you pain medication or deny you as a patient.

What is the strongest pain killer? ›

The most powerful pain relievers are opioids. They are very effective, but they can sometimes have serious side effects.

What do you do when doctors aren't helping? ›

If you feel your primary care doctor doesn't take your symptoms seriously, ask for a referral to a specialist or go to a different practice for a second opinion. A fresh set of eyes can be extremely helpful. Review how to present your symptoms factually, clearly, quickly, and without unnecessary minutiae.

Do patients have the right to pain management? ›

Pain management at the end of life is the right of the patient and the duty of the clinician. The World Health Organization states that patients have a right to have their pain treated, as does the United States Supreme Court [4,5]. (See "Legal aspects in palliative and end-of-life care in the United States".)

Why do doctors not prescribe opiates? ›

Opioid medications have long been prescribed to help people manage their chronic pain and live productive lives. However, the rising tide of the opioid crisis has led to concerns that opioids are over-prescribed. This has led some doctors to stop prescribing pain medication to patients who need it.

What pain medication is not a controlled substance? ›

There are many non-opioid pain medications that are available over the counter or by prescription, such as ibuprofen (Motrin), acetaminophen (Tylenol), aspirin (Bayer), and steroids, and some patients find that these are all they need.

Will doctors prescribe tramadol? ›

Doctors prescribe tramadol and Vicodin for high levels of pain that over-the-counter (OTC) drugs cannot help, such as pain from an accident or medical procedures, such as surgery. Anyone choosing between tramadol and Vicodin should consider the differences in benefits, side effects, and risks.

What is the drug of choice for nerve pain? ›

The main medicines recommended for neuropathic pain include: amitriptyline – also used for treatment of headaches and depression. duloxetine – also used for treatment of bladder problems and depression. pregabalin and gabapentin – also used to treat epilepsy, headaches or anxiety.

What injections are given for pain? ›

One of the most common pain management injections is called an epidural steroid injection. This injection is common for lower back pain but may also help with upper back and neck pain. When injected, steroidal medication is injected into the epidural space around the spinal cord.

What symptoms will get you admitted to the hospital? ›

Symptoms of a Medical Emergency
  • Difficulty breathing, shortness of breath.
  • Chest or upper abdominal pain or pressure.
  • Fainting, sudden dizziness or weakness.
  • Changes in vision.
  • Confusion or changes in mental status.
  • Any sudden or severe pain.
  • Uncontrolled bleeding.
  • Severe or persistent vomiting or diarrhea.

What is medical Gaslighting? ›

Medical gaslighting is term used to describe doctors or medical practitioners who wrongly deny a patient's illness entirely, for example wrongly telling patients that they are not really sick, or blame a patient's physical illness or symptoms on psychological factors.

How do I get doctors to listen to me? ›

4 Tips to Get Your Doctor to Listen
  1. Prepare for your visit. The way doctors were trained falls short of understanding what is really affecting your health and well-being. ...
  2. Know what your doctor is listening for. ...
  3. Make the visit about what you want to discuss. ...
  4. Ask questions.
14 Oct 2019

How many people with chronic pain are prescribed opioids? ›

Nationally, 22.1% of adults with chronic pain used a prescription opioid in the past 3 months (Figure 1). Women with chronic pain were more likely to have used a prescription opioid in the past 3 months (24.3%) than men with chronic pain (19.4%).

Why is my doctor sending me to pain management? ›

A pain management doctor treats sudden pain problems such as headaches and many types of long-lasting, chronic, pain such as low back pain. Patients are seen in a pain clinic and can go home the same day.


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