Ankle Arthritis Overview

Ankle Arthritis Overview

Arthritis is a common problem that affects the joints in our body, especially in the ankles and feet. As we grow older, the chances of developing ankle arthritis increases. However, many people do not experience any symptoms.

When arthritis affects the ankles and feet, it can make it difficult to lead an active and healthy life without proper treatment. Moreover, it may lead to other serious health issues due to changes in physical activity.

Arthritis in the ankle can have a big impact on your life. But don't worry, this article will give you all the info you need to take care of it. You'll learn what causes it and what signs to look out for.

Ankle Arthritis Explained

Ankle arthritis is a degenerative inflammatory disorder where the cartilage articular, essential for normal shock absorption and joint mechanics, thins out and starts to degrade. Then, abnormal bone expansions (bone spurs) may form within the joint.

The healthy ankle joint cartilage is around 1 to 1.7 millimeters thick. It is strong and dense. After the cartilage's membrane breaks down, an inflammation of tissue, also known as synovitis, develops.

What Causes Arthritic Ankles?

Knowing the cause behind your pain from arthritis in the ankle could assist your doctor in suggesting the most effective treatment plan. The majority of cases result from five significant causes as well as risk factors.

1. Family History

The risk of developing ankle arthritis is elevated due to an inheritance predisposition.

2. Advanced Age

The risk of developing arthritis at the ankle joints increases as you age. The cartilage in the ankles shrinks as time passes.

3. Joint Stress

If your daily activities, such as extreme sports or strenuous exercises, strain your ankles, you're more likely to suffer from pain in your feet and ankles.

4. Underlying Medical Conditions

Research has revealed that an underlying medical issue causes 10 to 15 percent of cases reported of ankle arthritis. These include blood disorders, congenital structural problems, rheumatoid arthritis, and other conditions that lead to poor circulation.

5. Joint Trauma

The ankle is prone to injuries like sprains, fractures, and accidents. If the joint has sustained trauma, the joint is more vulnerable to developing arthritis of the ankle or "post-traumatic ankle arthritis." The damage caused by the injury can heal over time. However, the trauma could result in severe joint problems over the long term.

Types of Arthritis That Affect the Ankle

Arthritis is a broad word used to describe joint inflammation. For example, it is possible to have osteoarthritis of your ankle or Rheumatoid arthritis in the ankle.

  • Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis caused by wear and tear on the cartilage over time. It is more common in older adults but can also occur in younger people who have had an ankle injury or have certain underlying medical conditions.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that can cause joint inflammation, including the ankle joint. It can affect people of all ages but is most common in women.

While both forms of arthritis trigger inflammation pain, each has its sources and ways of progression. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition, while ankle osteoarthritis results from wear and tear on the joint.

Ankle Arthritis Symptoms

The signs of arthritis in the foot and ankle may differ depending on the affected joints or ligaments. However, if left untreated, the condition may gradually worsen and affect your daily activities. As sudden onset is also possible, seeking medical assistance or physical therapy immediately is essential. Here are the most common signs of ankle arthritis.

Throbbing Pain

Weight-bearing exercises, like walking or jogging, place stress on your joints. This could cause excruciating pain; The pain could be sharp, intense, dull, or aching. The pain can lead to a more frequent occurrence as the condition worsens. It is possible to experience chronic pain in the back of your foot, the lower part of your shin (tibia), and the mid-point of your foot.


When the ankle cartilage has been damaged, the talus fibula and tibia bones may grind against each other. This causes swelling in the ankle and discomfort.

Joint Stiffness

Bone-on-bone friction and inflammation can make your ankle stiff. Therefore, when the ankle's motion is restricted, it could make the task of pointing and flexing your feet during normal activities challenging.

Popping or Crunching Sound

A little popping in the ankle and foot is usual when you regularly move your feet and ankles. But don't dismiss it if you notice an oozing sound while flexing your toes or if you feel slipping, especially when you see an injury or biomechanical change related to it. This could indicate that cartilage has become damaged and cannot effectively safeguard your bones from the effects of fictional dangers.

Ankle Instability

Spending much time on your feet, like walking, standing, or walking for long periods, can cause your ankles to curl or lock. This is due to stiffness, and joint pain can alter how you walk. This could cause ankle weakness due to pain and cause weak joint mechanics.

Diagnosing Arthritis Ankle

If you're experiencing any signs of ankle arthritis listed above, schedule your appointment with a doctor immediately. The condition can be identified by a thorough physical examination, complete medical history, and imaging (if required).

The doctor will examine your ankle for tenderness, inflammation, joint injuries, bone spurs, and mobility. He might also check your footwear for uneven wear and the mechanics of your movements. Imaging tests can detect the presence of arthritis in ankle joints or identify other possible issues. MRIs or arthro-centesis scans, as well as X-rays as well as radiographs, are all possible when needed.

Preventing Ankle Arthritis

There is no surefire way to prevent ankle arthritis, but there are a number of things you can do to reduce your risk, including:

  • Maintain a healthy weight. Excess weight puts additional stress on your joints, so maintaining a healthy weight can help to reduce your risk of developing ankle arthritis.
  • Exercise regularly. Regular exercise can help to strengthen the muscles around your joints and reduce stress on your joints. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week.
  • Wear supportive shoes. Wearing supportive shoes can help to reduce stress on your ankles and feet. When choosing shoes, look for shoes with good arch support and a cushioned heel.
  • Avoid overuse. If you experience pain in your ankle, stop the activity and rest. Continuing the activity could make the arthritis worse.
  • Listen to your body. If you feel pain in your ankle, stop the activity and rest. Don't push yourself too hard, especially if you're new to exercise.
  • Stretch regularly. Stretching your ankles and calves can help improve flexibility and reduce your risk of injury.

Here are some additional tips for preventing ankle arthritis:

  • Start with low-intensity workouts and gradually increase their duration and intensity to avoid overuse, especially if you're new to exercise.
  • Cross-train. Alternate high-impact activities, such as running and jumping, with low-impact activities, such as swimming and cycling.
  • Take breaks. If you are participating in a high-impact activity, take breaks throughout the activity to rest your ankles.
  • Consider wearing ankle braces. Consider wearing ankle braces if you are active in sports or other activities that stress your ankles. Ankle braces can help to support the ankles and reduce the risk of injury.

If you have any concerns about ankle arthritis, talk to your doctor. They can help you develop a plan to reduce your risk of developing the condition and manage any symptoms you may experience.

Treating Your Ankle Arthritis

Whatever the state of your ankle, your physician will recommend a treatment plan appropriate to your specific needs. Various factors are assessed, including how old you are, your bone health and body weight and alignment, your activity level, and the degree of ankle arthritis.

While arthritis isn't cured, many ways exist to alleviate pain and reduce ankle-related symptoms.

Although severe cases might require ankle or joint reconstruction surgery, most popular treatments involve managing the symptoms by restoring range of movement, increasing strength, biomechanics training, exercises, Cold therapy pack, NSAIDs, Heat with a Sacksythyme's Microwavable Heating pad,  and anti-inflammatory and non-steroidal drugs. This can all be accomplished at home or with the help of a physiotherapist.

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