The human ankle is a multifaceted joint complex comprised of three separate joints in the region where the foot and leg meet. It is necessary for these joints to possess a certain degree of strength, as they support the weight of the entire body. Increased strength translates into increased stability leading to higher standards of weight bearing, mobility and adaptability for the entire body. The ankle, in conjunction with the foot, allows us to perform basic human functions such as standing, walking, running and jumping while serving as a connection to the ground. Its physiology allows the ankle to withstand the stress of our body weight as well as the ability to adapt too, and quickly react to changes in environment and walking surface.
What is Arthritis?
Arthritis is known as the degeneration or loss of cartilage in the joint. There are three different types of arthritis: osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and traumatic arthritis. The two joints that are affected by arthritis of the ankle are the talocrural joint and the subtalar joint.
What is Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is commonly found in older adults. Women tend to be more susceptible to osteoarthritis. It is defined as the gradual wearing and degeneration of the cartilage in the joint over time.
What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Unlike other types of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis is not caused by gradual degeneration or wear-and-tear. Rheumatoid arthritis is actually a systemic autoimmune disease, and will normally affect both joints. Rheumatoid arthritis causes degeneration of the articular cartilage and the fluid that lubricates the joint as well. As the joint loses lubrication and cartilage it begins to cause more friction on the bones, which in turn causes pain and degenerates the area further.
Treating Ankle Arthritis
Treatment of ankle arthritis is dependent upon the type and severity of the arthritis.
- Rest: Activities that produce pain should be avoided. Common everyday activities, such as ascending and descending stairs, should be minimized.
- Ice or moist heat: Use ice to reduce inflammation. If you have rheumatoid arthritis though, you may not be able to use ice without feeling discomfort. Moist heat (like a warm wash cloth) may be used in these cases to help loosen up and individuals stiff joints.
- Compression: May be used when applying ice or moist heat, and can help reduce swelling.
- Elevation: keeping the affected area elevated can help minimize inflammation
Medicine Intervenes and Managing Your Pain
Avoidance of activities that produce unneeded stress and strain on the joint is the first line of treatment. Then seek the consultation of a specialist to receive a full evaluation and proper diagnosis.
- RICE: Rest Ice Compression Elevation
- NSAIDS: Non-Steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs. These should help reduce pain and minimize swelling.
- Immobilization: The use of a brace may be used to help protect the joint from extraneous movements and promote healing.
- Injection of steroids may be needed to help reduce the swelling of the affected joint.
- Joint injections of hyaluronic acid preparations to facilitate the repair of joint cartilage and even regeneration of cartilage.
Preventing Ankle Arthritis
When pain and swelling is reduced the individual’s’ range of motion and strength will begin to improve. A patient should slowly return to their daily activities. To help control the degeneration process, you should follow the instructions given to you by your medical professional.