Advances in surgical science have boosted the success rates for arthroplasty, or ankle replacement surgery, with devices now lasting five times as long as they did when they were first introduced in the 1970s. However, many ankle arthritis sufferers still opt for non-surgical alternatives, ostensibly to avoid long recovery times and visible surgical scars. While most physicians will suggest a visit to an orthopaedic surgeon for severe cases of ankle arthritis, there are a number of treatments that sufferers can try before going under the knife.
1. Simple steps
The Victorian Department of Health suggests that patients use a walking stick in the opposite hand to the affected ankle to reduce pain while walking. However, the number of ankle arthritis sufferers under the age of 50 is increasing, and many younger patients may be unwilling to consider this option. Orthotics, which can be prescribed by a podiatrist, may be effective in altering the gait and relieving pressure on the affected ankle.
A physiotherapist can also develop a comprehensive exercise program to strengthen the muscles around your ankles, which helps support the joints. Maintaining a healthy weight is also essential for ensuring that minimal stress is placed on your ankles while standing and walking.
2. Over-the-counter medication
Some doctors will suggest basic anti-inflammatory medication and research suggests that these treatments may be effective in relieving mild arthritis discomfort. However, be sure to consult with your doctor before commencing a long-term course of anti-inflammatories, as a recent study has suggested that sustained use of these medications may increase the risk of cardiovascular problems.
Cortisone, a steroid, is commonly prescribed by doctors to provide short-term relief from ankle arthritis symptoms. It is typically delivered by injection into the ankle joint, resulting in a temporary reduction in stiffness. However, steroid injections are not a reliable long-term solution as they can break down vital tissues.
4. Arthroscopic surgery
Arthroscopic (keyhole) surgery is a far less invasive procedure than arthroplasty. A surgeon will use a fibre-optic camera to identify and remove loose cartilage from the joint, and in most cases, patients are allowed to return home on the same day as their procedure. Although this surgery is minimally invasive, results may vary - patients may only be able to expect temporary relief of between 6 and 12 months.
The decision to have an arthroplasty is a major one, with a wide array of costs and side-effects involved. If your arthritis is not so unmanageable that surgery cannot wait, consider trying these alternatives before going under the knife. Contact a foot specialist for more information.
Welcome. My name is Maggie, and my dad was an orthopedic surgeon. I was always curious about what he did, but my curiosity grew even stronger during high school when many of my closest friends had knee surgeries. Ultimately, I became a nurse and worked alongside my dad for a few years before he retired. Now, I work in labour and birth, but orthopedics are still a major interest of mine. I decided to start a blog so that others can learn what I know, and I hope the information in here is enlightening and useful to you. Thank you for reading!