Ankle Osteoarthritis: Treatment

A combination of non-invasive methods can help you get back on your feet. When necessary, your clinicians may recommend a surgical option.

There is no treatment to prevent the development of osteoarthritis, or heal it once it has set in. Therefore, treatment is aimed at reducing pain, minimizing joint damage, and improving mobility and pain.

If you have been diagnosed with ankle osteoarthritis, there are a number of nonsurgical and surgical treatments. The type of treatment your doctor recommends will depend on the type, location, and severity of your arthritis.

Nonsurgical treatment includes:

  • Losing weight if you are overweight. Excess weight adds stress to the ankle joint.
  • Pain relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) and anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen (Advil). It is important to take these medications exactly as directed to avoid potentially dangerous side effects (kidney or liver damage).
  • Shoe inserts, such as arch supports and pads
  • Custom-made shoes (such as a stiff-soled shoe with a rocker bottom)
  • Inserts that support the ankle and foot (orthotics)—a plastic brace that goes along the back of the leg and the underside of the foot and also fits inside the shoe.
  • Ankle brace or splints. Braces can range from soft lace-up braces to hard plastic boots.These are designed to limit the motion of the ankle joint.
  • Use of a cane
  • Physical therapy (recommended by your doctor)
  • Exercise that does not stress the ankle joint, such as swimming and cycling
  • Medications, such as a steroid injection into the joint, which may provide relief for up to a few months. Injections can be given up to two times in any given joint.

Surgical procedures for ankle osteoarthritis include:

Debridement: Using minimally invasive surgery (arthroscopy), the ankle joint area is cleaned of foreign tissue, inflamed tissue that lines the joint, and bone spurs.

Ankle fusion:The bones of the joint are fused completely, making one continuous bone. Pins, plates and screws, or rods are used to hold the bones in position while the joint fuses.

Aspiration: With inflammation, there is also fluid build-up. By removing fluid from the joint, you may experience less pain and stiffness.

Ankle replacement with an artificial joint: The ankle joint is replaced with an artificial joint. An ankle replacement allows a person to have more mobility and movement compared with ankle fusion. Ankle replacement is most often recommended for a person with advanced ankle arthritis.

After surgery, your doctor may recommend physical therapy for several months to help you regain ankle strength and restore your range of motion. You can usually resume daily activities within three to four months. You may need special braces or shoes.

Updated on: 11/17/15
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