As arthritis wears down the bone and cartilage in your ankle, walking becomes more painful. Anti-inflammatory and pain medications help a little, but eventually they won't relieve all of the pain. A surgical procedure to replace your ankle joint may be the fix you're looking for. Here is an explanation of how arthritis is damaging your ankles and how ankle surgery can give you relief.
Why Arthritis Causes Ankle Inflammation and Pain
Your lower leg and ankle bones fit snugly against each other with a cushioning layer of cartilage between them. Tough ligaments hold the bones together and let them move smoothly in all directions.
Arthritis causes the bones in your ankle to wear down faster than new bone can be made to replace it. The cartilage cushion becomes thin and weak. This causes more friction in the ankle as bones rub against each other. This ankle becomes inflamed making it difficult to move.
As arthritis continues to damage the joint, the pain and inflammation becomes so great that the ankle can lose its flexibility and range of motion. Your ankle becomes stiff and painful to walk on.
Surgical Replacement of Your Ankle Joint
There is no effective cure for arthritis. Replacing your ankle with an artificial joint is a way to return movement to your ankle and relieve the pain.
This foot surgery is done in a hospital under general anesthesia. The bone and cartilage at the end of the lower leg bone and on the surface of the ankle bone called the talus are removed. In their place are positioned two metal and plastic components which fit together like your natural ankle joint. These are secured into the bone with a special glue that holds the parts in place until new bone can grow onto them.
Your doctor may have to reattach tendons and ligaments that have been damaged by the arthritis. The Achilles tendon is the one most affected by arthritis.
Recovery After Ankle Surgery
For the first few days after surgery, you'll wear a cast or brace while the ankle is healing. You won't be able to walk on your ankle, but you'll be given exercises to begin strengthening your muscles. Once your foot doctor is satisfied that the ankle is healing properly, you'll begin to put weight on it.
You'll then start walking with a physical therapist and build up your muscle strength. The artificial ankle has restored the range of motion, but your muscles need to be retrained to move it correctly. During this period, you may have minor pain which can be controlled with an anti-inflammatory pain medication such as ibuprofen.
If pain and swelling in your ankle is keeping you from walking and enjoying life, an artificial ankle replacement may be the key to getting rid of the pain and stiffness.