Treating Your Arthritis

4Depending on the type, location and severity of your arthritis, there are both non-surgical and surgical treatment options available. Non-Surgical Options

These conservative techniques are often used to treat early stage or non-severe arthritis.

  • Weight Control – for many patients weight loss is very helpful and should be a cornerstone of the treatment strategy. Scientists estimate that for each pound lost, stress on the ankle is reduced by five pounds.
  • Pain medication – often doctors will prescribe non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce swelling and help relieve pain.
  • Shoes and inserts – pads, arch supports or even custom-made stiff-soled shoes with rocker bottoms can help make walking more comfortable.
  • AFO – ankle-foot arthosis – A brace (usually plastic) worn on the lower leg and foot to support the ankle, hold the foot and ankle in the correct position, and correct foot-drop.
  • Physical therapy and exercise
  • Injections – symptoms can be markedly improved by the injection of a steroid into the joint. However, this can have a negative long-term effect on the joint.

Surgical Options

If arthritis does not respond to the conservative non-surgical treatments, surgery may be an option. An average of 65,000 U.S. patients undergo ankle surgery each year1. The decision to treat ankle arthritis surgically is based on many factors including:

  • The location of the cartilage loss in the ankle
  • Patient age, weight and expected activity level
  • Condition of the skin, nerves, tendons and bone around the ankle
  • Response to previous treatment
  • Other medical problems

The primary surgeries performed for arthritis of the ankle are:

  • Arthroscopic debridement – Helpful in the early stages of arthritis development, this procedure involves insertion of a pencil-sized camera and small instruments into the joint to visualize and remove foreign tissue and bony outgrowths (spurs).
  • Arthrodesis, or fusion – Ankle fusion is the most common surgical technique performed today. This procedure eliminates the joint by encouraging the bones to grow together. During the process, the cartilage is removed, and the bones are pinned together with screws, plates, rods or pins to hold them in position while the bones eventually grow together into one solid mass.
  • Arthroplasty, or joint replacement – First implemented in the 1970’s, arthroplasty, or total ankle replacement involves resurfacing the ankle joint with mechanical parts that allow continued motion and function without pain.


  1. iData Research Inc., 2008. Foot and Ankle Reconstruction Market
Norcal Foot and Ankle
676 East 1st Ave.
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Norcal Foot and Ankle
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