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Is Ankle Osteoarthritis Slowing Down Your Step?


Millions of Americans are currently suffering from some form of Osteoarthritis.  It is usually not until later in our lives that we begin to notice the tell-tale signs of creaking joints, pain and stiffness, or a loss in mobility.  Over time, we put our joints through unthinkable and uncountable tasks.  Even normal “wear and tear” can eventually diminish the health of our joints.  Osteoarthritis occurs when the connective tissues surrounding the bones are diminished, or worn away, and the protection it has been providing the joints is compromised.  When Osteoarthritis strikes a joint that you depend on to get you from point A to point B, you will definitely be walking straight to the doctor’s office.

Ankle Osteoarthritis is a very common form of Arthritis.  As stress is placed on the joint through normal daily motion, the mechanics of the joint can slowly deteriorate.  The ankle joint is comprised of three bones: the bottom of the tibia (often referred to as the shinbone), the fibula (forms a socket with the tibia), and the tallus (fits into the socket).  When these bones lose their protective coverings, the bones themselves may rub together.  In many situations, this will be the point when you begin to experience the symptoms associated with Ankle Osteoarthritis.  The joint may become swollen and inflamed, causing pain and discomfort.  You may lose flexibility in the ankle or a reduced range-of-motion.  You may have trouble standing up after periods of rest, walking, or carrying out normal daily activities.  You may hear your ankle “pop” when you flex it or while walking.

Osteoarthritis of the ankle can be directly related to injuries you may have obtained throughout your life.  Ankle strains, sprains, and fractures are recognized as precursors to Osteoarthritis, although it may take years to develop (or to notice the signs).  Ankle injuries can directly harm the cartilage and the mechanics of the joint.  Obesity can also lead to Ankle Osteoarthritis, as the ankles work diligently to hold the extra stress on their weight-bearing joints.  It is important for many health related issues to keep your weight at an ideal body mass projection provided by your physician.  Lastly, foot anatomy itself can correlate with Ankle Osteoarthritis.  If the soles of your feet are “flat-footed,” or overly arched, it can contribute to additional strain on the joint.  Both conditions can cause you to alter your gait, step, and stride; thereby allowing the joint to lose stability through otherwise normal range-of-motion.

If you have had an ankle injury in the past you may want to speak to your doctor about any preventative measures you can take to avoid Osteoarthritis.  If you are experiencing any of the signs or symptoms associated with Ankle Osteoarthritis speak to your doctor.  Your doctor should discuss you medical history, including your family health history, past injuries, and other health concerns.  He should then have you perform a variety of physical tests, such as walking to assess your gait.  He should manipulate your ankle to check your range-of-motion, strength, and flexibility.  To further aid him in a correct diagnosis, he may want to run one or more imaging tests, such as an X-ray or a MRI.

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