The ankle joint is located at the junction of the leg and the foot. It is made up of three bones: the tibia, the fibula and the talus. The ankle joint allows the foot to dorsiflex (point the foot up) and plantarflex (point the foot down).
Ligaments (strong fibrous bands of tissue that connect two bones) are located on each side of the ankle joint to create stability in the joint. Tendons (strong fibrous structures that connect muscle to bone) are located throughout the foot to allow for motion in the other parts of the foot such as the movement of the toes.
Cartilage is the specialized joint tissue that covers bones and allows the bones to move in relationship to each other with minimal friction. Loss of the cartilage can decrease joint function and produce pain, stiffness, swelling and warmth.
Common ankle problems that may lead to an ankle replacement
Arthritis is a joint condition of damaged cartilage and/or bone which causes the bones to grind on each other with movement, thus causing pain and inflammation. Ankle arthritis is the progressive loss of the smooth gliding surface that lines the ends of the bones that form the ankle. This produces pain, stiffness, swelling and warmth at the joint. These detrimental effects lead to reduced comfort and endurance for standing and walking activities.
Common Types of Ankle Arthritis
The most common types of arthritis affecting the ankle joint are osteoarthritis (degenerative), rheumatoid arthritis (inflammatory), and post traumatic arthritis.
- Osteoarthritis is the breakdown or degeneration of the joint’s cartilage and formation of bony spurs in the joint.
- Rheumatoid arthritis in an immune system disease resulting in inflammation of the joint lining which in its advanced stages can lead to cartilage, bone and muscle damage.
- Post traumatic arthritis is often related to sport, car accident or recurring injuries.
Treatments for Ankle Pain
Your foot and ankle specialist may recommend rest or medication for pain relief. Physical therapy may also be prescribed in the early stages of ankle arthritis. You should discuss the best option with your surgeon.
An ankle replacement may be needed for those patients with chronic ankle arthritis causing pain that conservative measures such as rest, physical therapy, bracing or medications were unable to correct. Ankle replacement involves replacing the damaged joint with synthetic components.