Foot & Ankle Surgery located in Fort Worth and Weatherford, TX

Will Ankle Arthritis Increase My Risk of Sprains?

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Will Ankle Arthritis Increase My Risk of Sprains?

The muscles, tendons, ligaments, and other tissue in our ankles can get damaged for a number of reasons, including arthritis. But will having arthritis raise your chances of struggling with other problems, like sprains?

Your ankle is one of the lowest joints of your body, an intersection of the shin and calf bones (tibia and fibula, respectively) and the talus bones in your feet, connected by tendons, muscles, ligaments, and cartilage that help with everything you do on your feet. Also referred to as your talocrural or tibiotalar joint, it helps you maintain your balance, remain stable, and bend in two different ways: down away from (plantar flexion) and upward toward  (dorsiflexion) your body.

Damage to the bones and cartilage in your ankles can happen for a number of reasons, including due to different forms of arthritis. This condition can also compromise the joint's stability, leading to other problems, including sprains. To find out more, let’s explore the causes of ankle arthritis, its connection to sprains of this joint, and some options to treat it.

If you live in the Weatherford or Fort Worth, Texas, area and you’re trying to cope with these or other ankle conditions, Drs. Gary Driver, Glen Beede, Gary Jaryga, and their medical staff at Trinity Foot & Ankle Specialists can help.

Causes of ankle arthritis

Arthritis is an inflammation of the joints, and osteoarthritis is the form of this condition that most often affects this joint, though rheumatoid arthritis can lead to many of the same symptoms as well. Over time, arthritis leads to a degeneration of the joint and related tissue (specifically the eroding of the cartilage in the joint), and a history of injuries, fractures, or damage to the ligaments in it can eventually lead to this condition. Arthritis affects your ankle in stages, with degeneration worsening at each stage:

  • Stage 1: mild changes in cartilage, possible bony growths, no changes in the space in the joint
  • Stage 2: continued degeneration has reduced the space in the joints due to cartilage reduction
  • Stage 3: joint space dwindles more, with some bone-to-bone contact
  • Stage 4: complete wearing away of joint cartilage, resulting in joint space collapse and full on bone to bone contact

The connection between it and ankle sprains

Sprains are the stretching or tearing of the ligaments in your joints, and with ankles, it is often the talofibular (ATFL) and calcaneofibular (CFL) ligaments located laterally on the outside. Generally, it results from your foot rolling inwards, known as an inversion injury, which can happen as a result of walking on uneven surfaces and sports that require sudden shifts in foot movement like cutting or jumping, falling down, or tripping over something. Eversion injuries, which result from an outside rolling of the foot, are also a cause of sprains but far less likely.

Both arthritis and sprains can damage the ligaments in your ankle, and in fact, repeated sprains can lead to arthritis. The cartilage loss common in arthritic ankles can also adversely affect the ligaments, leading to ankle strain, so the risk of sprains can increase over time.

Treatment options

Regardless of which kind of injury you have, the rest, ice, compression, elevation (commonly known as RICE) method to help alleviate pain and reduce the chances of further damage is a good start. This will also help in giving your ankle support, reducing any related swelling and pain, and keeping weight off of it as it heals. 

Non-surgical options for both can also include a brace, crutches, or other forms of support to keep you from bearing down your total weight while healing, as well as physical therapy to restore range of motion and stability. Arthritis can also be treated with cortisone injections. Surgery is also an option for both conditions, but less likely in sprains unless it is quite severe. For ankles, it can be done through ankle arthroscopy, fusion, or replacement surgery.

Sprains and arthritis of the ankle are both common problems, and their relationship with each other is complicated, but both are manageable, and we can help. Make an appointment with Drs. Driver, Beede, Jaryga, and the team at Trinity Foot & Ankle today to get your ankles the help they need.