Skip To Content
Category: Physician's Blog

Ankle Arthritis: Insights from the Expert

In the realm of joint disorders, arthritis often takes center stage due to its widespread prevalence and impact on daily life. While most discussions about arthritis focus on hips, knees, and hands, it's important not to overlook a lesser known but equally debilitating form: ankle arthritis. This condition can significantly affect mobility and overall quality of life, necessitating a deeper understanding of its causes, symptoms, and management strategies.  

Dr. Thurmond Lanier, a podiatrist with CaroMont Foot & Ankle, shares solutions for patients suffering: 

Understanding Ankle Arthritis 

Ankle arthritis is a condition characterized by inflammation and gradual deterioration of the cartilage within the ankle joint. Cartilage is a crucial component that cushions joints and allows them to move smoothly. When it wears away, the bones can rub against each other, leading to pain, stiffness, and reduced range of motion. There are three primary types of arthritis that affect the ankle: 

  • Post-Traumatic Arthritis: This is the most common cause of ankle arthritis as most people have an injury to the ankle that then leads to arthritic changes. The injury can be as simple as an ankle sprain or as major as a fracture. Since an injury is usually the precursor to arthritis in the ankle, patients are usually younger when they start to experience symptoms from arthritis as compared to knee and hip arthritis. 
  • Osteoarthritis: Occurs as a result of the natural wear and tear on the joint over time. Factors such as age, genetics, and mechanical stress on the joint can contribute to the development of osteoarthritis. 
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis: This is an autoimmune disorder where the body's immune system mistakenly attacks the joints, including those in the ankles. It often leads to inflammation, pain, and joint damage. 

Symptoms and Impact 

The symptoms of ankle arthritis can vary in intensity, but generally, the most common complaints I treat are: 

  • Pain: Persistent pain, especially during movement or weight-bearing activities, is a hallmark of ankle arthritis. 
  • Stiffness: The joint may become stiff, making it difficult to move the ankle freely. 
  • Swelling: Inflammation in the joint can cause visible swelling and discomfort. 
  • Limited Range of Motion: As the cartilage deteriorates, the ankle's flexibility diminishes. 
  • Difficulty Walking: The pain and stiffness can make walking, especially on uneven surfaces, challenging.
  • Joint Deformity: In advanced cases, the joint can become misaligned or deformed. 

The combined effect of these symptoms can significantly impact one's ability to perform daily activities, participate in physical activities, and maintain an active lifestyle. 

Managing Ankle Arthritis 

While there is no cure for ankle arthritis, I recommend several management strategies help my patients mitigate its impact on their lives: 

  • Medications: Over-the-counter pain relievers and anti-inflammatory drugs can help manage pain and inflammation. In some cases, prescription medications may be necessary. 
  • Physical Therapy: A physical therapist can develop a customized exercise regimen to improve joint mobility, strengthen surrounding muscles, and alleviate pain. 
  • Orthotics and Assistive Devices: Custom shoe inserts or braces can help provide support and improve alignment. Assistive devices like canes may be useful for maintaining balance. 
  • Lifestyle Modifications: Maintaining a healthy weight reduces stress on the joints. Low-impact exercises like swimming or cycling can help keep the joints mobile without excessive strain. 
  • Injections: Corticosteroid injections can provide temporary pain relief by reducing inflammation. Hyaluronic acid injections might help lubricate the joint. 
  • Surgical Interventions: In severe cases where conservative treatments are ineffective, surgical options like ankle fusion or ankle replacement may be considered. 

Embracing a Full Life 

Ankle arthritis might present challenges, but it doesn't mean the end of an active and fulfilling life. With proper management and a positive mindset, individuals with ankle arthritis can continue to pursue their passions and engage in activities they love. 

If you suspect you have ankle arthritis or are experiencing joint pain, consulting a medical professional is the first step towards a more comfortable and active future. 

Dr. Lanier is accepting new patients and specializes in reconstructive foot and ankle surgery with expertise in ankle arthroscopy, total ankle replacement and minimally invasive surgical techniques. Make your appointment today.