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Ankle Arthritis Symptoms & Treatments

What is Ankle Arthritis?

Arthritis is basically pain and stiffness that is caused by inflammation and swelling. Arthritis can actually impact most of our major joints. Because of that, it's something we deal with often in the orthopaedic world. (To meet our foot & ankle specialist, visit

When you have arthritis in the area of your ankle, it can make walking, running, and jumping a painful proposition.

In terms of causes, arthritis may be the result of an injury, or a symptom of the wear and tear that occurs as we grow older.

Traumatic Injury Or Wear And Tear Can Lead To Ankle Arthritis

When it comes to the ankle, arthritis can be caused by a traumatic injury, or it may be a "wear-and-tear" condition.

Wear and Tear Ankle Arthritis = Osteoarthritis

Wear-and-tear arthritis is also known as "osteoarthritis". This is actually the most common form of arthritis, impacting millions of people every year.

The Ankle Supports 8x Your Body Weight

Now let's talk about the ankle and why it is so crucial. The ankle is a hinge joint made up of several important structures. The unique design of the ankle makes it a very stable joint.

This joint has to be stable in order to withstand 1.5 times your body weight when you walk, and up to eight times your body weight when you run.

Wear and Tear = Osteoarthritis

Obviously, the ankle is prone to a high amount of wear and tear. Wear and tear arthritis is "osteoarthritis", and it can occur in many parts of the body. However, today Dr. Elton is focusing on arthritis of the ankle.

Symptoms of Ankle Arthritis

According to Dr. Elton, the following are symptoms of ankle arthritis:

  • Joints that appear "deformed"

  • Feelings of instability in the joint

  • Ankle stiffness

  • Joint swelling

  • "Lumpy-looking" joints. (This can be caused by bone spurs)

When Do You Need Surgery for Ankle Arthritis?

If we are unable to eliminate the pain and swelling caused by arthritis of the ankle, we may recommend surgery.

Depending upon your particular case, we may fuse and stabilize the joint or clean out the joint to relieve the arthritis. Another option is replacing the arthritic joint with a prosthetic joint.

Let's take a brief look at the different options.

Ankle Debridement

In a procedure called debridement, we clean out any fragments of cartilage or bone spurs that may be causing the arthritis. Usually, debridement is an option if the diagnoses indicates mild or moderate ankle damage.

Ankle Fusion

Fusing the bones of the ankle can eliminate the pain of arthritis. Using plates and screws, the bones or joints which are arthritic are joined together using screws and/or plates. Eventually, the bones will fuse together during the healing process and become what is in essence one solid bone. In some cases, we may remove the hardware after this is achieved.

Ankle Replacement

If damage to the ankle joint is significant, we may recommend a total ankle replacement. By replacing the worn ankle with a prosthetic joint, we can give healthy functions back to the patient and allow them to get back to their chosen activities.

To learn more about this condition, check out this article on the topic from Dr. John Paul Elton, our foot & ankle specialist.

Read the full article on Dr. Elton's Blog!


Dr. John Paul Elton

Dr. John Paul Elton believes that truly listening to his patients is the most important diagnostic tool at his disposal.

The Harvard-trained foot and ankle specialist knows from years of experience that “where it hurts” is not always the actual cause of the complaint.

Dr. Elton has the training, expertise, and skill to handle the full spectrum of foot and ankle disorders: from sports injuries and fractures to nerve and tendon disorders, deformities, and chronic pain.

If you are dealing with a foot and ankle injury and want to get back on top of your game, please reach out to Dr. Elton.


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