Arthritis is a painful condition of any joint. While there are different types of arthritis, (such as osteoarthritis, gout, traumatic, and rheumatoid) most of the time we are talking about osteoarthritis. In this case, the joint cartilage has worn down to the point where underlying bone is exposed, and this can cause swelling around the joint, loss or limitation of motion, deformity, and pain. In the foot this is often seen around the great toe joint, the ankle and the mid-foot, but can also be seen in smaller joints in the toes. Walking and exercising can be affected as normal joint function changes due to pain.
Treatment approaches include topical preparations (Ben Gay, Biofreeze), heating pads or hot wax, oral non-steroidals like ibuprofen or aspirin, steroid injections, physical therapy and surgery. Surgically cleaning up a joint often decreases pain considerably, and joint replacement is often an option. In the example of a painful and stiff hammertoe, simple joint resection with or without an implant can decrease most, or all of the pain.