What is osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is a condition we all get, to a greater or lesser extent, depending on age and activity and simply means that the slippery cartilage inside the joint wears sometimes causing painful inflammation. It is most often seen in weight bearing joints of the body.
What causes the problem?
- Usually develops over a period of time as a part of normal ageing
- There is some evidence for a hereditary trend in developing arthritis
- Previous fractures or trauma around the joint, obesity and rheumatoid arthritis
- Repetitive excessive loading from sport or heavy work
What are the signs and symptoms?
- Pain with prolonged standing or walking any distance
- Stiffness and aching in the mornings
- Feeling of weakness around the ankle
- Activity limitation - involve exertion e.g. hill walking, playing golf, running
How do I manage this problem?
- Activity modification: limit the activities that aggravate the pain, especially sporting activities. This gives the joint a chance to recover from the repeated physical stress allowing the inflammation to resolve.
- Anti-inflammatory medications: simple anti-inflammatory tablets such ibuprofen from your chemist may help
- Heat/ cold: If your joint is stiff you could use a hot water bath or hot pack for 10 minutes prior to your exercises. If in acute pain and swelling use ice packs to reduce the pain and swelling.
- Ankle supports: Soft elastic ankle supports may help to rest your joint during the acute phase and gives you the confidence to move and do your exercises
- Exercises: The attached PDF document shows you exercises that may help to improve mobility, strength and function. It is important you do your exercises regularly
- Prevention: It is important to preserve the movement and strengthen your ankle to avoid further deterioration.
- Weight management: Having your weight under control through regular physical exercise and diet control is equally important.
What other treatments are available?
If your symptoms are ongoing over 3 months despite following this advice then further options are available:
- Pain medications: Your GP may consider giving you stronger pain killers or anti-inflammatory medication for you to return to your normal activity
- Physiotherapy: In mild to moderate cases, your physiotherapist may be able to provide joint mobilisations, specific functional exercises and/or acupuncture to improve your symptoms.
- X-ray: If your symptoms are not improving over 6 months and your GP or Physiotherapist may recommend an x-ray to identify the level of osteoarthritis
- Specialist opinion: Severe osteoarthritis may need further assessment by a specialist to consider surgery.
- Steroid injections: If your symptoms are not improved you may benefit from a steroid injection to reduce the pain and swelling.
Please see the following video about ankle osteoarthritis and how to manage it.