If you've experienced mild to moderate ankle pain for years, made worse by frequent long periods of walking or standing, you may have osteoarthritis of the ankle—a condition in which the bone and protective tissues within your ankle wear down, causing pain. For those who experience osteoarthritis pain daily, you may be dismayed at the thought of relying on over-the-counter or prescription painkillers for the rest of your life in order to simply feel "normal." Fortunately, there are a few options (both nonsurgical and surgical) that can significantly reduce the amount of pain you experience on a daily basis. Read on to learn more about your osteoarthritis treatment options for a pain-free future without the use of narcotics.
Orthopedic shoes or inserts
Although you may associate orthopedic shoes with the relief of foot pain, changing the way your body distributes weight from the ground up can significantly lessen the impact on your ankles of walking, turning, or even running. Orthopedic inserts are composed of a firm polymer gel that can cushion your entire foot while subtly shifting the way each stride hits the ground. For the best outcome, you'll want to have custom-fitted shoes or inserts rather than simply purchasing the one-size-fits-all inserts from a local retailer. Custom orthopedic shoes or inserts can be especially useful for osteoarthritis sufferers, as years of coping with ankle pain can cause you to unconsciously alter your gait in a way to try to avoid hurting your ankle.
For a relatively temporary way to relieve the pain of osteoarthritis, periodic injections of cortisone can do the trick. Just like hydrocortisone spray can relieve itchy skin, cortisone injected into the ankle joint can lubricate moving parts and diminish the amount of pain felt by the nerve receptors in your ankle. This cortisone is eventually processed by your body (just like the cortisone your body produces), at which time you'll need to have another injection or choose a different treatment path.
This surgery is colloquially known as "ankle fusion" and is one of the quickest ways to relieve your pain for the long term. However, because surgery does always involve some risks, and because an ankle arthrodesis generally isn't reversible, your doctor may not recommend this option until your osteoarthritis has advanced to the point it's causing you moderate, rather than mild, pain.
During ankle arthrodesis, the surgeon will remove the damaged cartilage and flattened bone resulting from your osteoarthritis. The remaining bones are then fused together to avoid bumping against each other and causing pain with every movement. After this surgery, you'll notice a diminished ability to flex and rotate your ankle because of the attached bones—however, with these bones now in constant contact with each other, you should notice a major decrease in (or even elimination of) pain.
Cadaver replacement joint
In some cases, ankle arthrodesis simply isn't a good option. For example, someone whose ankle was destroyed in an auto accident may not have sufficient bone to fuse together in this surgery without losing an inch or two of height on the affected side of the body. If you fall into this category, you may be able to benefit from the removal of your entire ankle joint and implantation of a cadaver's joint. Because ankles are one of the most complex joints in the body, medical technology hasn't yet been able to come up with an ideal artificial joint that can function just like a natural one. However, joints from individuals who suffered no osteoarthritis or severe ankle injuries during their lifetime can be the perfect solution to ankle problems.
To learn more about relief from osteoarthritis of the ankle, speak with your doctor or visit a website like http://www.towncenterorthopaedics.com.