Ankle arthritis common in aging adults, but it can occur in younger people due to an ankle injury. It is a chronic, painful condition that has few treatment options. There are now stem cell and platelet treatments for foot and ankle injuries and degenerative conditions.
Many people have arthritis in their feet and don’t even know it because there are no symptoms. When symptomatic, it elicits:
- Pain and stiffness
- difficulty walking
- joint tenderness
- Misshapen feet
- Numbness and tingling
Adequate arthritis treatment is targeted at alleviating pain and preventing joint deformity. Some of the non-intervasive options include:
- anti-inflammatory medications
- weight loss, healthy diet, and suitable exercise
- stem cell therapy
Stem cell therapy
With recent advancements in research, stem cell therapy is becoming an effective treatment for ankle arthritis. It is a non-surgical method that involves a single in-office injection. Stem cell therapy, in addition to platelet-rich plasma can help alleviate ankle arthritis pain. These are alternatives to surgery, which provide faster healing and improved functionality.
How it works
Stem cells are pluripotent cells in our body that have the ability to differentiate into various type of cells. Their stores in body decrease as we age, which is one of the reasons an adult will take longer to heal damaged tissues naturally. Stem cell therapy involves harvesting stem cells from the patient’s blood and fat tissue, creating a concentrated dosage, and injecting it directly into the damaged area of the ankle/foot. It is a single day procedure and patients are usually able to return to their normal activity within a short period of time.
A major study done at Mayo and published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine showed that patients suffering from knee arthritis showed significant improvement with stem cell therapy.
Most of outcomes data about stem cells for arthritis has come from outside the USA so far, from Iran and Thailand. These studies show that injection of stem cells into an arthritic knee may induce new cartilage formation, as verified with surgical arthroscopy (with a camera).
The results from stem cell therapy for arthritis have been shown to last from 6 months to at 2 years. There is some evidence of positive structural reversal of the arthritis-induced joint damage.
Overall, bone marrow-derived and fat-derived stem cells can be used to treat cartilage defects and arthritis in the ankle joint as elsewhere. This is a safe procedure with very low rates of known complications based on available data. Patients report consistent reduction of pain and considerable restoration of function. In that sense, it is superior to other orthopedic conditions such as hyaluronic injections and in some cases, even surgery.