Arthritis is a term used when inflammation occurs around one or more of your joints. This leads to pain, stiffness and erosion of the joint in question. There is over a hundred different types of arthritis but the most widely known is osteoarthritis. One example is painful knee arthritis, typically linked to those over 60 as it is common among the aged population. While the term ‘rheumatism’ is rarely used by healthcare professionals today, the general public still frequently uses it to describe arthritic conditions that involve wear and tear of a joint or body part.1
The ankle joint, made up of the talus, fibula and tibia bones, is used to provide support, stability, shock absorption, and balance to a person while standing, walking and running. The ankle joint facilitates smooth motion, enabling an up and down movement. This joint, as many others, is covered with articular cartilage that helps the bones glide smoothly over each other during movement. The cartilage is layered with synovium to lubricate and reduce friction between the bones.
Ankle arthritis occurs when the cartilage of the ankle joint wears away and becomes frayed or rough with joint space narrowing and often osteophyte (bone spur) development. Some forms of arthritis include:
Development of bone spurs at the ankle joint
RA of the left metatarsal (toe) joints
Leaving ankle arthritis to deteriorate often results in chronic pain, disability and deformity of the foot and ankle joint. This makes daily life very difficult for patients especially when it comes to mobility. Although there is no cure for arthritis, there are many treatment options available to slow the progression of the disease. With proper treatment, many people with arthritis are able to manage their pain, remain active, and lead fulfilling lives.
X-rays may be ordered to determine the extent of articular damage. Arthritic ankles may show narrowing of the joint space between bones (an indication of cartilage loss), changes in the bone (such as cysts or fractures), or the formation of bone spurs. Further diagnostic tests may be required including bone scans, CT or MRI scans and blood tests.
Lifestyle modification may be necessary:
Podiatrists are experts at prescribing and fitting custom orthotic devices and ankle-foot devices to help improve mobility and minimize joint stress. Focal and radial shockwave (ESWT) have been used to great effect for tissue regeneration and neovascularization, improving joint function and reducing pain for patients when used correctly.
If ankle joint pain and disability does not improve or have advanced beyond conservative treatment, surgical intervention may be required.