The ankle is actually made up of two joints – the talocrural join and the subtalar joint. The Talocrural joint is where the bottom of your shin bone (tibia) and your foot meets (the Talus). The subtalar joint is where the Talus meets the heel bone (Calcaneous). The Talocrural joint is predominantly responsible for the up and down movement at the ankle and the subtalar joint is predominantly responsible for the side to side movements.
Osteoarthritis can occur in either of these two joints either as a result of wear and tear or following trauma or disease. It is the thinning and roughening of these contact surfaces in the joint that we call Osteoarthritis. This is an entirely normal aspect of the ageing process but can happen at different rates and to different extents to different people. Along with the reduction in cartilage thickness, sometimes some extra bits of bone can form on the edges of a joint called osteophytes.
The first symptoms of ankle osteoarthritis are usually pain and perhaps swelling and stiffness, especially after prolonged activity including standing or walking. This can be more noticeable after high impact activities, for example running. In some cases, the ankle may lock in one position or give way. As the osteoarthritis becomes more severe you may start to get more frequent or prolonged pain and stiffness, even when resting.
The majority of patients with ankle osteoarthritis are managed with analgesia and exercise. Rarely, in patients where the exercises no longer help, steroid injection or surgery may be considered.
If you have severe pain affecting your sleep and daily activities, if you have had a serious injury or you have symptoms that have not improved with self-management, you should contact your GP practice. If you have a red, hot swollen joint please ring 111