5 Signs You Might Have Ankle Arthritis

a person holding their foot with ankle arthritis
a person holding their foot with ankle arthritis

Do you ever wonder if the persistent pain in your ankle could be something more serious, like ankle arthritis? As a physical therapist, I often see patients who are unsure about the causes of their ankle pain. Ankle arthritis can be a sneaky condition, gradually coming on through a variety of symptoms.

In this blog, we’ll explore the five key signs that might indicate you have ankle arthritis. So, let’s dive in and uncover the telltale signs of ankle arthritis that you should be aware of!

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5 Signs of Ankle Arthritis

1. Persistent Pain and Stiffness

Chronic pain and stiffness in the ankle joint are among the most common symptoms of ankle arthritis. This discomfort often results from the gradual wearing down of cartilage, which normally cushions your joints and allows for smooth movement. Without enough cartilage, bones can rub against each other, causing pain and stiffness.

These symptoms typically become more noticeable after periods of inactivity, such as first thing in the morning or after sitting for a long time. You might find that your ankle feels particularly stiff and painful when you first start moving, but it may ease up as you get into your day. However, prolonged activity can also exacerbate the pain, leading to a cycle of discomfort that can be challenging to manage.

2. Swelling and Inflammation

Swelling and inflammation around the ankle joint can be clear indicators of ankle arthritis. Inflammation is the body’s natural response to injury or damage, and with arthritis, the ongoing joint degeneration triggers this reaction.

You might notice that your ankle swells up more after you’ve been on your feet for a while or after engaging in physical activities. The swelling can make your ankle feel tight and can limit your range of motion. This fluctuation in swelling is typical; it may decrease with rest and increase with activity. Keeping track of these patterns can help you understand how your activities affect your ankle and manage your symptoms more effectively.

3. Reduced Range of Motion

Arthritis can significantly limit the ankle’s range of motion. This happens because the inflammation and damage to the joint make it harder for your ankle to move smoothly and fully.

Reduced flexibility in your ankle can impact many daily activities. For instance, you might find it difficult to walk long distances or climb stairs without discomfort. Even simple movements, like getting up from a chair or stepping out of a car, can become challenging and painful. This stiffness can interfere with your ability to perform everyday tasks and enjoy your usual activities.

4. Grinding Sensation or Sound

A grinding or clicking sound in your ankle is another sign of arthritis of the ankle. These sounds occur because the cartilage that normally cushions your joint is wearing down, allowing the bones to rub against each other.

You might notice these sounds when you move your ankle in certain ways, like when you rotate your foot or walk. This grinding or clicking indicates that the joint surfaces are not gliding smoothly anymore, which can be a clear sign of joint damage. These sounds can also be accompanied by a feeling of instability or discomfort.

5. Tenderness and Sensitivity

Ankle arthritis can make your joint tender to the touch and sensitive to pressure. This tenderness is due to the inflammation and irritation of the joint tissues.

You might find that your ankle hurts when you press on it or when you’re wearing shoes that put pressure on the joint. This sensitivity can make it difficult to find comfortable footwear and might limit your participation in physical activities. Even routine tasks, like standing for extended periods or walking on uneven surfaces, can become painful and challenging due to this increased sensitivity.

What Can Be done For Ankle Arthritis?

Managing ankle arthritis effectively often requires a combination of treatments, and physical therapy plays a crucial role in this process.

Physical Therapy: Physical therapy can help reduce pain, improve mobility, and strengthen the muscles around the ankle. Your physical therapist will design a personalized exercise program to increase flexibility, enhance joint stability, and reduce the strain on your ankle. This might include range-of-motion exercises, strengthening routines, and low-impact aerobic activities that keep you active without exacerbating your symptoms.

Footwear and Orthotics: Wearing supportive shoes and using orthotic inserts can help alleviate pain by providing better support and reducing pressure on the affected joint. Your physical therapist can recommend specific types of footwear and custom orthotics that can make walking and daily activities more comfortable.

Lifestyle Modifications: Simple changes in your daily routine can make a big difference. Your physical therapist can teach you techniques to avoid putting extra stress on your ankle, such as proper body mechanics during activities and ways to modify your environment to prevent falls and injuries.

Ready To Get Help With Physical Therapy?

If you’re ready to find out more about how physical therapy can help you with ankle arthritis, please click here to make an inquiry and our team will be in touch!

Or, give us a call 360-474-3274 and we’ll answer any questions you have!

Andrew Vertson