Imagine rubbing two small, plastic boxes against each other. If the material they’re made of is smooth, they’ll glide easily back and forth as you move them. Now imagine taping sand paper to the sides of the boxes and trying to rub them together again. The rough paper creates a lot of friction and causes the boxes to stick instead of slide back and forth. That effect can happen inside your body when your joints become damaged. When that happens in your ankles, your ability to walk can be seriously compromised.
Bone on Bone Grind
Ankle arthritis is the uncomfortable inflammation of the bone tissues in your ankle joints. Arthritis itself is actually a very broad term, and refers to several different conditions, depending on how the tissue damage occurs. A general grinding down of the protective tissues, autoimmune damage, and previous injuries can all result in painful irritation of the cartilage and bone.
You have two joints that allow your ankle to flex up and down as well as rotate side to side. Where the talus, or ankle bone, meets the lower leg bones, is the first. It allows you to point and flex your foot. The second is where the talus sits on top of the calcaneus, or heel bone. The calcaneus glides smoothly from side-to-side underneath it. Like any other joints, the bones in both of these are protected by a sheath of smooth cartilage. When that protective lining is compromised, the bones grind against each other.
The sheath can be damaged multiple ways. Over time, activity can simply wear it out. This is called osteoarthritis and it’s the most common inflammatory joint damage in the lower limbs. Sometimes, for reasons no one fully understands, your body’s immune system attacks your joint tissues and injures them. This creates rheumatoid arthritis. Other times, an injury like a fracture or a connective tissue rupture can strain the joints and result in painful inflammation called post-traumatic arthritis. However it develops, the breakdown of your joints is uncomfortable and can make it difficult to walk or do other activities.
Managing Arthritis in Your Ankles
Fortunately, ankle arthritis can be managed conservatively in most cases. The doctors at Country Foot Care will examine the affected joints to determine the severity of the condition. They may also request diagnostic images for a clearer picture of the damage. Once they have an accurate picture of your condition, they will help you move forward with treatment.
You will most likely need anti-inflammatory pain killers to help reduce the irritation and discomfort. If oral medications are not enough, direct injections may help. Changing your shoes to models with more cushioning and support reduce the impact on the joint and the foot. You may need an orthotic to help stabilize and add extra padding as well. Physical therapy can help you maintain your range of motion. In some cases, securing the ankle with a wrap or a brace may reduce the stress on it. If your arthritis is severe and conservative measures are not successful in managing your discomfort, you may need surgery to repair the joint. A total joint replacement or a fusion of the bones are two options for correcting the problem.
Ankle arthritis is painful and can significantly limit your mobility. Too many people allow the discomfort from joint inflammation to control their lives. You don’t have to just accept your pain—there are ways of managing the condition. If you’re struggling with uncomfortable ankles, make an appointment now using the REQUEST AN APPOINTMENT form at the top of this page or call our offices directly to speak with a member of our staff.