Answers about Your Ankle Arthritis
Let’s face it: there is no fountain of youth that will keep you from aging and developing some of the normal consequences of wear and tear on your body. There are ways to slow the process down or make it more bearable, though. When you notice aching pain in your feet and ankles, it is important not to ignore it. While accurate diagnosis may not keep you young forever, we can devise a treatment plan to keep you active without pain for a longer time. Ankle arthritis is a prime example.
Arthritis in Your Ankles
The condition may occur from degeneration of your joints over time (osteoarthritis), as a result of previous trauma or injury, from an autoimmune condition like rheumatoid arthritis, or from the high uric acid levels of gout.
The cartilage or lining of any of the thirty-plus joints in your foot or ankle can experience inflammation. The area may look red and feel warm, be tender to the touch, or swell up. The pain can be quite severe, and your joint may feel stiff and unmoving as well.
The earlier we know about the problem, the more options we have in treating it. You—and we—would much rather address an issue early than wait until you can’t even walk short distances without pain.
Ways of Treating Arthritis Pain Conservatively
We begin with conservative measures to relieve your pain and stiffness and allow you to function normally. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or menthol or capsaicin creams that may interfere with pain signals from your joint to your brain can help with pain. Medications for rheumatoid arthritis often target your immune response.
If the condition gets worse, we may need to try a steroid medication to provide adequate relief. Injectable steroids are also used in some cases to deliver the medication directly to the site of the pain. There may be some value in low level laser treatments for pain as well. Although the results may be temporary (a few weeks or months), it has no known side effects (unlike with some medications).
Sometimes the pain is worse because of poor foot or ankle alignment when you walk. This can be helped with custom orthotic devices. Braces could also be used to reduce the amount of movement in your joint and thus relieve the pain of bones rubbing together. Occasionally a boot or cast may be necessary to completely immobilize the joint until the inflammation is under control.
We often prescribe physical therapy as well, to strengthen muscles that hold your joints in place or improve the range of motion by slowly stretching your muscles, tendons, and ligaments.
Why Choose Surgery to Treat Ankle Arthritis
You may have had the condition for years and managed the pain and inflammation with one or more of the above remedies, but now your joints have really deteriorated and the pain is much worse. If that’s the case, then surgery may be the best option for restoring some normalcy to your movement and your life. Surgery is done to reduce pain and improve function, and a variety of procedures can be performed:
- Cleaning up the joint by removing excess fluid or pieces of cartilage may help with the pain and improve your function.
- Joint fusion melds two or more bones together so they can’t move about and cause pain. Some loss of function may be involved.
- Joint replacement removes the damaged joint completely and replaces it with an artificial one. This has become a common surgery for those in advanced stages of arthritis.
- There is some research into a newer procedure called ankle distraction arthroplasty. This procedure attempts to rebuild the joint, rather than fuse or replace it. It involves using an external fixator to hold the bones separate from each other while new cartilage grows. After ten weeks, a temporary walking boot is used until the joint is completely healed.
Get an Expert Opinion in SoCal
Need help for your sore ankles? Give Southern California Foot & Ankle Specialists a call at (949) 364-9255 (WALK) and set up a visit to our Ladera Ranch office (or schedule online). We look forward to helping you find the answer to your arthritis pain!