Musculoskeletal conditions of the foot and ankle: Assessments and treatment options

Smita Rao, Jody L. Riskowski, Marian T. Hannan

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Musculoskeletal conditions of the foot and ankle are an important public health challenge due to their increasing incidence combined with their substantial negative impact on patients' quality of life. Non-pharmacological treatments serve as the first line of treatment and are frequently used for patients with musculoskeletal conditions of the foot and ankle. This review provides a summary of the assessments and non-invasive treatment options based upon available evidence. Recent studies show that individuals with foot and ankle pain have multiple co-existing impairments in alignment, motion, load distribution and muscle performance that may be evident in static and/or dynamic tasks. In addition, both clinical and epidemiological studies support the inter-dependence between the foot and proximal joints. For instance, aberrant foot structure has been linked to foot osteoarthritis (OA), as well as OA and pain at the knee and hip. Most recently, advances in motion capture technology and plantar load distribution measurement offer opportunities for precise dynamic assessments of the foot and ankle. In individuals with musculoskeletal conditions of the foot and ankle, the chief objectives of treatment are to afford pain relief, restore mechanics (alignment, motion and/or load distribution) and return the patient to their desired level of activity participation. Given that most patients present with multiple impairments, combinational therapies that target foot-specific as well as global impairments have shown promising results. In particular, in individuals with rheumatoid arthritis and other rheumatic diseases, comprehensive rehabilitation strategies including early detection, foot-based interventions (such as orthoses) and wellness-based approaches for physical activity and self-management have been successful. While significant improvements have been made in the last decade to the assessment and treatment of foot and ankle conditions, few randomised clinical trials specifically have investigated patients with foot or ankle conditions to provide global insights into this area. Consequently, current recommendations vary based upon the scope of studies presented in this review as well as the strength of studies. This review indicates a need for more in-depth investigations into the components of assessment and treatment options for foot and ankle musculoskeletal conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)345-368
Number of pages24
JournalBest Practice and Research: Clinical Rheumatology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2012


  • Ankle
  • Foot
  • Footwear
  • Musculoskeletal
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Treatment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rheumatology


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