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Ankle Osteoarthritis (OA) “Wear and Tear Arthritis”

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What is Ankle Osteoarthritis (OA)?

Osteoarthritis (OA) can affect any joint. It is the process of gradual wear and tear of the joints and cartilage that protects them. It is usually associated with the ageing process, overuse and injury. Podiatrists regularly see osteoarthritis in the midfoot and the big toe joints, but the ankle is also a common place for us to see this problem.

Usually people describe the pain as a low grade aching but as it progresses, the pain from ankle OA can be quite sharp, it can also throb and rest doesn’t always help it to settle down. The ankle joints tend to stiffen up too and this may be particularly noticeable in the mornings. Many patients also anecdotally suggest that their experience of arthritic pain alters with the weather (being more painful in wet and cold conditions).

  • Anterior Ankle OA affects the front of the ankle
  • Lateral Ankle OA affects the outside of the ankle
  • Medial Ankle OA affects the inside of the ankle

How can I help myself?

It can be hard to predict or prevent the onset of OA. If you sustain an injury to a joint you may be at higher risk of developing OA.  Making sure you keep the muscles around the affected joint strong may help to reduce your chances of developing problems in later life, but this is very hard to research and prove.

General advice with OA is to try and keep active and mobile. Keep your muscles and soft tissues strong and functioning well. Supportive footwear and foot orthoses may also help with OA of the feet and ankles. Pain medication and anti inflammatory medication (see important safety information) may also be useful, but due to the chronic and degenerative nature of the problem, you need to seek medical advice about taking medication. Some people find benefits from heat packs to gently warm the joints and contrast warm and cold therapy may also be useful.

Anterior ankle OA usually causes pain when the foot is bent up towards the front of the ankle (dorsiflexed) because the front of the joint is being compressed. Wearing footwear with a small heel may reduce symptoms because this opens up the joint. The heel of the footwear needs to be wide and supportive (for example in a walking boot/shoe). Wearing flat shoes like slip on ballet type pumps or flip flops may make the problem more painful.

When to see a Podiatrist?

As Podiatrists, we are good at spotting the way your body compensates when the ankles do not bend properly, and can advise on footwear and foot orthoses to try and help these compensations and also reduce your ankle pain by altering the forces going through the painful areas.

Steroid injections and shockwave therapy can be used to help symptoms if appropriate too, but sometimes people require surgery on the ankle(s).

Ankle OA can be challenging to manage, but Podiatrists are experts in controlling the symptoms of ankle pain.

If you book an appointment, it is a good idea to take the footwear you wear day to day and any sports or exercise specific footwear to show the Podiatrist.

Ankle Osteoarthritis
Ankle Osteoarthritis