Treating Ankle Arthritis

Posted on December 16, 2022 in Achilles Tendinitis, Foot/Ankle, Ankle Arthritis & Ankle Pain by Dr. Erik Nilssen & Dr. Sonya Ahmed

May is National Arthritis Awareness Month, and of the more than 100 forms of this painful condition, many can affect the ankle. In fact, almost half of people in their 60s and 70s have arthritis of the foot and/or ankle, but not all of them have symptoms.

Arthritis refers to inflammation in one or more of the body’s joints, and while it can occur in many areas, it is very prevalent in small joints like the ones located in your feet and ankles. Unfortunately, arthritis cannot be cured, but it can be managed with a range of treatment options specifically designed to relieve symptoms and slow progression.

In the majority of cases, the joint will be swollen and painful. Usually, this pain develops gradually; however, it is possible for the pain to come on suddenly in some cases.

Other symptoms of arthritis include:

  • Warmth and redness of the joint.
  • Tenderness or pain if pressure or weight is applied to the joint.
  • Higher pain levels and increased swelling after resting or sitting for extended periods of time.
  • Sticking or grinding sensations when moving the joint.
  • Difficulty performing daily activities that involve climbing stairs and/or walking.
  • Dull aching in the affected joint(s) even while lying down or sitting in a chair.

Individuals with ankle arthritis also experience Achilles tendonitis more frequently than those who do not. Therefore, to fully understand the symptoms of ankle arthritis, the symptoms associated with Achilles tendonitis must also be addressed. These include:

  • Inflammation and pain in the backside of the heel, primarily when running or walking.
  • Tight muscles in the calf.
  • Swelling and/or discomfort in the back of the heel.
  • The skin on the heel feels hot to the touch.
  • A limited range of motion upon flexing the foot.

For those diagnosed with ankle arthritis, non-surgical and surgical treatment options are both available, as determined by your physician.

Non-surgical treatment options for arthritis often include medications by mouth (anti-inflammatories), injections (steroids or other), physical therapy, weight loss, changes in shoes, or orthotics such as pads in your shoes or custom-made braces. Injections are also a common course of treatment. They include strong anti-inflammatory medications such as cortisone and artificial joint lubricants (also known as viscosupplementation or hyaluronic acid) or platelet-rich plasma therapy.

When non-surgical treatments fail, surgical intervention can include cleaning the arthritic joint by removing bone spurs that restrict motion. More often, especially with advanced arthritis, your foot and ankle orthopedic surgeon may recommend replacing the joint with an artificial joint or fusing the joint to eliminate painful motion.

As with any treatment option for ankle arthritis or other foot or ankle-related condition, Dr. Erik Nilssen and Dr. Sonya Ahmed provide the most innovative options possible. If you are experiencing symptoms of ankle arthritis and would like to schedule an appointment with North Florida Bone & Joint Specialists, call us at 850-435-4800 or schedule an appointment online.

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