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Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease where your immune system attacks its own tissues, as opposed to the traditional ‘wear and tear’ arthritis (osteoarthritis). Just under 2% of Australians suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, and it affects women at a slightly higher rate than men [1].

What causes Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis presents in ‘flare-ups’ where the body’s immune system attacks the lining of joints, called the synovial membrane. When the lining is inflamed, it can no longer produce synovial fluid, which otherwise works to lubricate the joints and nourish the cartilage and bone ends. This results in greater stiffness in the joints, which can make movement more difficult or uncomfortable. 

rheumatoid arthritis illustrative definition

While the exact reason for the body getting confused and attacking its own cells at the joints is not well understood, it has been thought that hereditary factors may increase your chance of developing it. Other contributing factors include smoking. Some of those affected report that cold temperatures and weather affects their symptoms.

Flares often occur without an identifiable cause, though some causes have been attributed to stress, illness and injury. As repetitive flares and inflammation occur, the cartilage and connective tissues can become damaged and the joint capsule can lose its ability to keep the joints stable.

What are the symptoms?

The joints affected by rheumatoid arthritis are usually symmetrical and can come and go unpredictably. Any joints can be affected, primarily the small joints in the hands and feet. 

The effects of RA progressively worsen and the joints incur more damage, until the joints are left with very little movement. This is why managing RA has a big focus on slowing down the progression of symptoms and maintaining as much mobility and quality of life as possible. Generally, symptoms include:

  • Swelling and inflammation at the joints
  • Pain, tenderness and discomfort
  • Stiffness and limited movement in the joints
  • Rheumatoid nodules at the feet
  • General fatigue
  • Changes to the shape of the joints over time

How is Rheumatoid Arthritis treated?

While your doctor may be able to provide medication and other therapies to help manage your symptoms and slow their progression, here at The Podiatrist, we work to help reduce pain in the joints of your feet and legs. Our goal is to improve your comfort, your mobility, and your overall quality of life. 

We may use custom orthotics to improve your comfort, absorb shock, and decrease the load through high-pressure areas and joints in the feet. We pair your orthotics with footwear that will promote stability and comfort in the feet, so you can continue to perform your daily activities. An exercise plan can also help you maintain your muscle strength and range of motion at the joints, slowing down the progression of symptoms.


[1] -

[2] -

Two weeks with Calcaneal Spur and finally got to see Doc. He sent me to Kevin @ Eleven and with One Appointment, he had me walking without Crutches. Yes! It still hurt. Did the Stretching, Rolling my Foot on a Spikey ball and Iced it occasionally. Return visit, after he had his Holiday, and I' am walking fine. They do NOT want to see me again, unless it deteriorates. Which it has not :-)
- Ivan CooKe