Last time I checked with my surgeon about possible treatment for my ankle arthritis, I was told there were three choices: clean the joint out, fuse it, or replace the joint. I opted for number four: do nothing. But I check back every now and again to see if there's anything new that could help me. Is there?
For anyone with painful and limiting joint arthritis, ankle arthritis can be very disabling. When every step is torture, activities become severely limited and quality of life goes downhill fast. If surgery is not an option because of personal choice, ongoing conservative (nonoperative) care is important. Good nutrition, pain relieving medications, physical therapy, and even exercise become important factors in maintaining health and function. Don't neglect these daily tools in self-care while you are waiting. In the meantime, there is one new surgical procedure that might be of interest to you. It's called distraction arthroplasty. The surgeon uses a device called a distraction frame to take hold of both sides of the joint and literally stretch them apart. It seems that by doing so while still allowing (and even encouraging) the patient to keep walking on the foot, new cartilage cells are stimulated to grow. There's a fair bit of surgery that must be done before the frame can be applied. The joint is cleaned out and any deformities or misalignments in the joint are corrected before the frame is applied. It's not a miracle cure and the effects often aren't felt for six months' time. But a large percentage of patients treated with this approach are pleased with the results. They report reduced pain and improved function.