Arthritis is a very common issue facing Americans, especially given the fact that the population is not only aging, but is also becoming heavier on the average. Each of these factors results in an increased risk of developing arthritis in the ankles and the feet, though there are plenty of treatment options available for those with varying degrees of arthritis. There are several factors that will go into the treatment that is ultimately recommended, including:
- Amount and location of cartilage loss
- Age, weight, and activity level of the individual
- Response to previous treatment (if any)
- The presence of other medical issues
When these and other factors have been considered, a plan for treatment can be delineated. The nature of the aforementioned factors will have an impact on the type of treatment that is best, so it is always wise to consult a physician in making this determination.
Weight Loss May Be an Option
Many patients will wish to explore non-invasive options in the treatment of their arthritis, and this is a good thing. There are some relatively simple solutions that may be able to treat arthritic conditions that are not severe or are in the early stages. One of these solutions is weight loss. It is estimated that for each pound of weight that is lost, there is a reduction of five pounds of stress on the ankle. This is a significant amount, underscoring the importance of using weight control as a strategy for alleviating pain and slowing down the arthritic process.
Exercise and Physical Therapy
There are a number of benefits to engaging in an exercise program, the most obvious of which is its contribution to weight control. There are other significant benefits as well, as exercise will help to strengthen the muscles and tendons that work in support of the ankle, thereby reducing the stress that may be causing pain. An exercise program should be done under supervision, as there are very specific exercises that can be done that result in the greatest gains. It is also possible that performing exercises incorrectly could result in further damage, which only reinforces the fact that an exercise program should be done under supervision. When a patient is exercising with the specific purpose of treating an arthritic condition, it may be best to enlist the help of a physical therapist, as this will ensure that the proper exercises are being done and that they are being done properly.
Surgery Is Sometimes Necessary
In some cases, the arthritis will have progressed to a point in which it has become painful and detrimental to normal function. If the arthritis has not responded to a non-invasive treatment program, then it may be time to turn to surgery as a treatment option. For ankles, there are three primary surgeries available:
- Arthroscopic debridement
- Arthrodesis (ankle fusion)
- Arthroplasty (total ankle replacement)
These surgeries all have their respective place in the treatment of ankle and foot arthritis. Arthroscopic debridement is very common for use in treating early-stage arthritis, as it is used to “clean up” foreign tissue and bone spurs. Arthrodesis, the most common surgery, encourages the bones to grow together through the removal of cartilage and the insertion of pins, rods, screws or plates. Finally, Arthroplasty involves the resurfacing of the ankle joint using mechanical parts. This allows for continued function and motion, all without the presence of pain.