Managing Ankle Arthritis: Treatment Options for Pain and Stiffness

Ankle arthritis is a medical condition that involves inflammation and swelling of the ankle joint. This arthritis typically affects the ankle joint and causes intense pain and swelling.

This condition is caused due to several factors, including wear and tear due to ageing, traumatic injury to the ankle joint, genetic predisposition, and autoimmune disorders. Though, the symptoms of ankle arthritis largely depend on the condition’s severity. Common symptoms of this condition include pain, swelling, stiffness, limited range of motion, and difficulty walking or standing.

Sometimes, people with ankle arthritis may also experience a grinding sensation or popping sound when moving their ankle joint. These symptoms can worsen over time and may significantly impact an individual’s quality of life. If left untreated, ankle arthritis can result in permanent joint damage and pain in the surrounding tissues. 

There are many treatment options for ankle arthritis, including surgical and non-surgical treatments. So, let’s discuss the non-surgical treatment options in detail below.

Non-Surgical Treatment Options for Ankle Arthritis

While surgical treatment options are effective, non-surgical treatment options can also effectively manage ankle arthritis. Here are some non-surgical treatment options:

  • Physiotherapy

A physiotherapist can create a dedicated exercise program to enhance ankle strength, flexibility, and mobility. That’s why undergoing physiotherapy is suggested for patients suffering from ankle arthritis.

  • Medications

Several pain medications, including acetaminophen and NSAIDs, can help reduce pain and inflammation due to ankle arthritis. Additionally, corticosteroids or biologics are also recommended in more severe cases.

  • Assistive Devices

These devices can go a long way as an effective treatment remedy. You can wear supportive shoes and use ankle braces, splints, a cane, and crutches to reduce the strain on the ankle joint and improve mobility.

  • Lifestyle Modifications

Your lifestyle affects your condition to a large extent. Certain lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, avoiding high-intensity activities, and performing low-intensity exercises, can help reduce the pain and stiffness in the ankle joint and improve overall health.

Now that we know about the non-surgical treatment options let’s dive in to discuss the surgical treatment options for ankle arthritis in detail below.

Surgical Treatment Options for Ankle Arthritis

  • Arthroscopy

This treatment is one of the minimally invasive surgical procedures used to treat ankle arthritis. The procedure requires making a small incision in the patient’s ankle and inserting an arthroscope (a thin, flexible tube with a camera attached) to identify the joint.

The surgeon removes any damaged cartilage or bone fragments that may be causing joint pain and inflammation. This surgical procedure is usually recommended for individuals with mild to moderate ankle arthritis. It can help alleviate pain and improve joint function.

  • Fusion

This surgical procedure involves removing the damaged cartilage from the ankle joint and fusing the ankle bones. It is performed to eliminate ankle joint movement and helps reduce pain and inflammation. 

This treatment is typically recommended for individuals with severe ankle arthritis. Although ankle fusion can provide significant pain relief, it limits mobility and is unsuitable for individuals requiring a full range of motion in their ankle joints.

  • Total Ankle Replacement

The treatment requires replacing the damaged ankle joint with an artificial one. This procedure is typically recommended for individuals with moderate to severe ankle arthritis.

Additionally, total ankle replacement can relieve pain and restore joint function. It allows individuals to resume normal activities. However, this procedure is more complex than ankle fusion and requires a longer recovery.

Post-Treatment Management

The recovery process after ankle arthritis treatment depends on the condition’s severity, the treatment method used, and the patient’s overall health. However, patients can still invest their time in rehabilitation and recovery. Some of these management strategies are described below.

  • Recovery Process

The recovery process after treatment for ankle arthritis can take several weeks or months. RICE therapy can help reduce pain and swelling in the affected joint. Over-the-counter pain and anti-inflammatory drugs are also prescribed to manage pain and inflammation. A brace, splint, or cast is necessary to immobilize the joint and promote healing.

  • Rehabilitation and Physical Therapy

This stage is crucial and helps speed up the recovery process after treating ankle arthritis. A physiotherapist works with patients to create an exercise program tailored to their needs and abilities. 

These exercises may include stretching, range-of-motion, and strength training exercises. Aquatic therapy or water-based exercises can also go a long way to ensure less stress while exercising.

  • Long-Term Management

Long-term management strategies are necessary to maintain the health of the ankle joint and prevent future complications. These strategies may include:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight to reduce stress on the ankle joint
  • Wearing appropriate shoes that provide good support and cushioning for the feet and ankle
  • Avoiding high-impact activities that can damage the ankle joint
  • Incorporating low-impact exercises such as swimming, cycling, or yoga to maintain joint flexibility and strength
  • Continuing physical therapy exercises at home to maintain joint mobility and strength
  • Regular check-ups to monitor the condition of the ankle joint and prevent future complications.

Alternative Treatment Options for Ankle Arthritis

There are other effective alternative treatment options for ankle arthritis. Let’s look at them below:

  • Acupuncture

Acupuncture may help reduce pain and improve mobility in individuals suffering from this debilitating condition.

  • Chiropractic Care

Chiropractic care involves using manual manipulation to realign the spine and other joints. The procedure helps reduce pain and improve mobility in individuals with ankle arthritis.

  • Herbal Supplements

Some supplements may help reduce inflammation and pain associated with ankle arthritis. For instance, turmeric, ginger, and devil’s claw are essential supplements to promote better health. 

Conclusion

To sum up, several treatment options are available for ankle arthritis, ranging from non-invasive options such as physical therapy, medications, and lifestyle modifications, to more invasive options like arthroscopy, fusion, and total ankle replacement surgery. 

Early diagnosis and treatment of ankle arthritis are crucial for preventing further damage to the joint and surrounding tissues. Early treatment can help manage symptoms, reduce inflammation, and slow the condition’s progression, improving patients’ overall quality of life.

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