People often don’t think about arthritis affecting the ankle joints but, if you have experienced it, you will know that it is extremely painful. As a weight-bearing joint, it makes sense that movement will be restricted. The joint will become stiff, swollen and, pain may be intense. Arthritis of any joint is unpleasant, to say the least, but when it affects the weight-bearing joints, it impacts life greatly. Diagnosis is paramount as there are many different types of arthritis. Two of the most common arthritic conditions are detailed below:
- Osteoarthritis – often known as the wear and tear arthritis as it breaks down cartilage and this causes the bones to grate against each other. It is an unpleasant sensation and leads to stiffness and a loss of movement. Although in the foot region, it is the big toe most commonly affected, it can also affect the ankle joint.
- Rheumatoid arthritis – this is an auto-immune disease where the immune system attacks the synovium, which is the membrane that lines the joints. This leads to pain, inflammation, and damage to the joint. It’s a debilitating disease and ankle arthritis is common.
The Effect on Life
Arthritis has a far-reaching effect. Although the level of pain will vary, the stiffness of the joints, reduced mobility and a loss of independence is enough to make anyone feel fearful. Feelings of isolation, emotional turmoil and even depression could occur. Anyone who is awaiting a diagnosis or treatment, for an arthritic condition is likely to need a great deal of support. In the main, through treatment and pain management, arthritis is controllable and with regenerative treatments such as stem cells, there’s a great deal of hope that the degenerative aspect will slow or reduced.
Prevention is always a better option than cure and if you are just experiencing ankle arthritis joint pain, consider changing footwear so that they offer more support. Some shoes, high-heels or those that do not protect the heel can cause the foot to roll inwards which will not help the ankle at all. Try to find shoes with built-in shock absorption. Keep your ankles as flexible as is possible. Rotate the ankle joints and bend and flex the feet. Be gentle while you are doing this. The idea is to sustain as much flexibility as is possible.
It’s important to treat pain and the goal will be to slow down bone loss, reduce inflammation and prevent damage to the joint. Medication prescribed will vary of course depending on the type of arthritis that is diagnosed.
- Non-steroidal drugs to reduce inflammation. These are useful for pain management
- Corticosteroids – these act quickly and work to control inflammation.
- Analgesics – these are purely for pain relief
- Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) – these modify the disease and work at a much slower rate than the other medications.
- Osteoporosis medication – will slow down the loss of bone and can help build new bone.
There are many options for treatment, but this will depend on the individual and the severity of the symptoms. If an early diagnosis is given, arthroscopic surgery removes unwanted tissue and outgrowths from the bone. In some (rare) situations, joint replacement surgery may be necessary. For many people, there’s a more viable option, that of stem cell therapy. It’s an efficient streamlined process that uses the person’s own cells and these are injected into the joint.
There are many benefits to using stem cells as they produce anti-inflammatory agents which can greatly help the joint. They also help lubricate the joint through the secretion of hyaluronic acid and can help repair and regenerate the ankle too So, for anyone worrying about ankle arthritis, seek medical advice but remain open to the potential for stem cell therapy.