Arthrosis of the ankle joint: symptoms, treatment and prevention

Deforming arthrosis most often affects the joints of the lower extremities, one of which is the ankle. These joints have great mobility in different planes and perform an important function when walking (rolling the foot and transferring body weight from the heel to the toe), and also bear the weight of the human body. Arthrosis of the ankle joint is a kind of retribution for walking upright. But many other factors play a role in the development of the disease. First, imperceptibly for the patient, the softening and thinning of the cartilaginous coating of the joint begins, then it cracks, which triggers the inflammatory process, the growth of bone tissue in the form of osteophytes. With advanced arthrosis, a person is not able to move without support and experiences severe pain, especially when relying on the leg. Disability is possible within a few years after the onset of the disease, if early and comprehensive treatment is not started.

Reasons for the development of the disease

ankle injury as a cause of arthrosis

Previous injuries to the ankle joint increase the likelihood of a degenerative process developing in it.

  • Increased body weight;
  • Flat feet, congenital deformities of the feet (horse foot, clubfoot);
  • Metabolic disorders in diseases such as diabetes mellitus, gout, atherosclerosis of the vessels of the legs;
  • Past joint injuries, for example, damage to the ligamentous apparatus, fractures of the ankles and bones of the foot;
  • Constant overload of the joint, leading to microtraumatization (in athletes and people who carry heavy loads);
  • Hereditary predisposition to arthrosis of the joints;
  • Previous inflammation of the joint (arthritis) of an infectious nature or with systemic diseases (rheumatoid, psoriatic, gouty arthritis).

Depending on the absence or presence of a specific factor that caused the disease, arthrosis of the ankle can be primary or secondary. There is also a division into stages. In the presence of the 1st stage, a person is able to work, if arthrosis has passed into the 2nd and 3rd stages, pain and limited mobility lead to disability (temporary or complete).

Symptoms of osteoarthritis of the ankle

  • "Starting" pain. This is one of the early symptoms of osteoarthritis of the ankle joint. Pain appears after prolonged sitting when trying to lean on the leg, may be accompanied by short-term stiffness of movements in the joint. After taking a few steps, the pain disappears;
  • Pain during and after physical exertion;
  • Night aching pain, it is associated with an inflammatory process that starts due to the destruction of cartilage tissue;
  • Crunch, clicks in the joint during movement;
  • Puffiness, especially noticeable under the ankles;
  • Restriction of movements;
  • Hypotrophy of the periarticular muscles and weakness of the ligamentous apparatus due to the fact that a person begins to spare the sore leg;
  • Joint deformity at the last stage of arthrosis.


It is necessary to distinguish arthrosis and its exacerbation from various inflammatory processes in the joint, for example, as a result of rheumatoid gouty or psoriatic arthritis. Therefore, the doctor prescribes a detailed blood test, rheumatoid tests, a test for CRP, uric acid. With arthrosis, these indicators are normal, but if the disease is in the acute stage, ESR and leukocytes may be increased. To establish the stage of arthrosis and obtain more detailed information about the pathology, radiography in 2 projections, ultrasound, CT or MRI of the joint is used. On the x-ray, a slight narrowing of the joint space can be noted if arthrosis is at the 1st stage. During the transition to the 2nd stage, the joint space is reduced by 40% or more from the norm. And at the 3rd stage, it is significantly narrowed, it can be practically absent, growths and deformations of the bones are visible.

Treatment Methods

Arthrosis of the ankle joint, as well as other localizations, involves complex, long-term and course treatment.

  1. Unloading the ankle joint during a period of severe exacerbation (walking with a cane on the side of a healthy limb), the use of a bandage;
  2. Exclusion of shock loads (jumping, running), vibration, weight transfer, prolonged stay on the legs;
  3. Body weight control;
  4. To give up smoking;
  5. Wearing a semi-rigid orthosis with concomitant joint instability;
  6. Physiotherapy (UHF, SMT, laser therapy, magnetic therapy);
  7. Medical therapy:
    • NSAIDs externally, orally, in injections;
    • glucocorticoids together with anesthetics intraarticularly and periarticularly to relieve inflammation;
    • vascular agents;
    • muscle relaxants to eliminate spasm of muscle tissue;
    • chondroprotectors are more effective drugs administered intraarticularly. If it is not possible to receive intra-articular injections, intramuscular administration, oral administration is indicated;
    • hyaluronic acid preparations to restore the quality of synovial fluid.
    • Orthopedic insoles, wearing comfortable shoes with a small heel;
    • Gymnastics to strengthen the musculoskeletal system. The following exercises should be done daily:
      • lying or sitting, bend and unbend your toes 10 times;
      • lying or sitting, pull the feet towards you and away from you 10 times;
      • turn the feet out and in 10 times;
      • make circular movements with the feet clockwise and counterclockwise 10 times;
      • sitting on a chair, put your feet on the floor with your toes and heels together, alternately rearrange your legs forward and backward, repeat 15-20 times.
      • Swimming, water aerobics;
      • At the 3rd stage of arthrosis and the ineffectiveness of conservative treatment, endoprosthesis replacement of the ankle joint or removal of the destroyed cartilaginous coating and joint capsule with its closure with the help of a rod structure or the Ilizarov apparatus (arthrodesis) is indicated.


foods for ankle arthritis

To reduce the risk of developing arthrosis, food should be given preference to foods high in protein, and spicy, salty, fried foods and alcohol should be excluded from the diet.

  • Avoid injury to the joint. To do this, you must try not to wear shoes with unstable heels, too hard soles, use special protective equipment when playing sports;
  • Control body weight;
  • You need to stick to a diet, that is, eat more foods rich in protein, and refrain from salty, spicy, fried, alcohol;
  • Timely treat and correct metabolic disorders, endocrine, vascular diseases;
  • Perform the above exercises for the ankle joints.

The effectiveness of the treatment of deforming arthrosis of the ankle joint depends on the stage of its development and the presence of concomitant diseases. In any case, if conservative therapy is indicated, it should include both medications and physical methods, as well as correction with orthopedic products.

Which doctor to contact

For pain in the ankle joint, you should consult a rheumatologist. The doctor will prescribe exercises, medications, and identify the cause of the disease. In case of diabetes or gout, it will be useful to visit an endocrinologist, in case of atherosclerosis of the vessels of the lower extremities - a vascular surgeon and a cardiologist. An orthopedist plays an important role in the treatment - he will not only help you choose the right shoes, orthopedic insoles, but also perform an operation if necessary. If you are overweight, you need to see a nutritionist and select the right diet. Non-drug treatment is carried out with the participation of a physiotherapist.