What to do with an arthritic ankle…

I’ve been reading, and doing some research on what bright features lay head for me and my left ankle. 

I found a nice article which I put a link to below. It Talks about some of the upsides of ankle fusion and how normal life can be after,  so I encourage anybody with the fear of thier arthritis to read and find some hope in the fact that a fused ankle can be still very functional foot.  ðŸ™‚ 


28 thoughts on “What to do with an arthritic ankle…

  1. Hi,
    I had a tibial plafond injury in 2007 (got rear ended on motorcycle by SUV- went flying some 60 feet) and am happy to share my experience.

    Before the injury, I was a very active person (backpacking, competitive table tennis, biking…) so the accident seriously cramped my lifestyle. However, I was able to get back on my feet relatively quickly (3 months) and resume a ‘normal’ lifestyle (9) months as defined by light sports, short hikes, being on feet for 3-4 hours, etc. Oh, and I had an external fixation followed by an ORIF with 2 plates/12 screws installed (if I remember right). The plates/screws are still in there.

    OK, so what bothers me after all these years? My ankle gets stiff after sitting on the floor in lotus for more than say 30 minutes. I cannot sit in vajrasana (look it up). The ankle sings when the weather changes (i.e, occasional temporary sharp pain). If I am on my feet for a long time, the left foot starts to ache and I pretty much have to rest the following day, although I don’t sometimes! I cannot jog for more than 2-3 miles or hike for more than 10 or so miles. Biking is not a problem. I have some trouble doing squats. I am still working on my posture.

    But let’s look at the upside. I have had ‘normal jobs, including ones that have required me to travel extensively. If you observed me very closely, you might see a very slight limp but it is really not noticeable. I can wear nice office shoes, but since I have a flat foot as well, well cushioned heels with an ankle support provide me with the most comfort. Rubber heeled dress shoes that look good are hard to find 😦

    Things that I did right over the past few years that have helped? Regular deep tissue Chinese massage with special emphasis on the foot, calves, hips and shoulders (they are all connected and the fact that your other foot compensates weakens your overall balance). Banya/Koran spa therapy helps. In fact, anything done in water is good although I’m not particularly an avid swimmer. Keeping weight down is very important too. Don’t get cortisone injections into the ankle even if your MD suggests it- any relief they might give is temporary at best and you have to keep going back. Also try some sessions of the Alexander Technique to get optimal posture. You will find out down the line that your hamstring might need some special exercises.

    One thing that I wish I’d done right after my injury. I really wish I’d gotten more physical therapy and continued that with someone who specialized in these types of injuries and has a good knowledge of body dynamics.

    Hope all this helps. Just another data point but one that might give you a good idea of what you should expect some 9 years down the road.


    Liked by 2 people

  2. I have finally found a site to contribute to. On 11/10/2015 I fell off a ladder working in nyc. I was brought to New York Presbyterian, had my external fixation on 11/12/2015 then internal fixation 11/24/2015 by Dr. Lorich head of orthopedic trauma at New York Presbyterian and hospital of special surgery. I had four plates put in and multiple screws. I was non weight bearing until mid January then allowed 50% weight bearing. On Febraury 1 saw Dr. Lorich and was told healing was slow in one bone and was referred to Dr Lane from hospital of special surgery. On 2/12 I went under a bone marrow procedure to get the bone forming and growing. I began taking Forteo to heal fractures. On 2/29 was advanced to full weight bearing. On 3/29 was not ambulating due to stem cell procedure opened up as a wound since then back on crutches and packed the wound with antibiotics, no infection although something was brewing. My wound has closed up and still off it by dr lanes orders. Dealing with great doctors in the country perhaps the world. Really want to get back to normalcy in life. Feeling great now just resting and letting this lady bone bridge just taking awhile.

    I had a few questions

    How long does it take for the swelling to go down ?

    How long will it take to get full range of motion back?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Louis,
      Thanks for posting your experience! Im sorry to hear you have joined this club. I am hopeful to gather some folks together to share and commiserate.
      I personally have not gotten any range of motion back but I hear many folks due. Its all depending on how much the cartilage between the talus and the tib/fib survives. My surgeon said the 6month mark determines a lot. I had better rom in the first few months but at the 9 month checkup the xrays showed the joint space had collapsed. I wear an Arizona brace and I can walk very well, but barefoot is not pretty. Im anxiously awaiting ankle fusion. Thats the light at the end of the tunnel for me.

      If the cartilage survives, folks say they can keep the ankle useable for years. I was told running was almost never an option again.
      This injury can be full of the worst news to an active person like myself, and I went through a huge bought of depression, but I now have come to a place where I am ok with never backpacking, jogging, jumping, etc again, because I can still walk, work, bicycle, swim, and appreciate what there is to lose in this life and how so many folks get injured and see their lives change forever.
      Im pushing hope and optimism:)

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yea right now I’m weight bearing through crutches the space between the tib/fib and talus articulate surface I was told perfect. I’m around 6 months they did not tell me anything about cartilage damage. I’m just having the one bone slowly healing. Would the cartilage disintegrated ?

        Liked by 1 person

        • It sounds like you’re doing great! I hope that you get back to full use. Definitely recommend doing all the PT you can and don’t rush the process and go easy on it.
          Keep us posted with your progress.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Yes I am coming along. I am approaching six months and hoping by the end of the month this bone will be healed somewhat.i was told it is beginning to bridge. Doing a lot of stretching and icing before bed and walking wth crutches to keep the ankle going. Did your ankle ever go back to normal as far as swelling? I am convinced it will always be little larger. I think if the swelling reduces the range of motion will return.

    Liked by 1 person

    • My swelling is completely gone (unless i do a heavy day of walking etc) then its a little puffy. I’ll post some pics. Im not sure about how your surgery was m, but i got to long vertical incisions – one in front and one on the side- that went through a lot of connective tissue and that took forever to loosen up. By the time i got the tissue to loosen up, the osteoarthritis set in and eliminated the range of motion. Super painful to flex my foot upwards (dorsiflexion). I cant stand barefoot with both feet together. My bad foot needs to be 1″ in front because it cant bend enough to get under me perfectly. I walk on my toes to get past this when barefoot.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks. My swelling is still there goes down when I go to bed. I guess by having four plates it could contribute. I have a 12″ incision on the outside of the ankle and 6″ incision on the inside of the ankle a plate on each side and two in the front of the ankle. I can stand no pain just stiff until I get it going. Dorsiflexion is fine no pain just tight in the Achilles’ tendon. About 0 degrees dorsiflexion. They didn’t tell me about osteoarthritis, I believe dr lorich would have said something, he hold nothing back. No pain just still but no pain.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Just got back from my six month follow up. Still a slight non Union in the tibia but taking alittle longer than expected although 95 % healed, back to full weight bearing and structured physical therapy. Feeling good just swelling and tightness no pain. Articular surface remains the same as well as everything else. Got cleared to go back to work 😀. Still need to take it slow each day though.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Louis that’s awesome. Im feeling the pain more now that i have resumed long bike rides. Im hopeful that dies not persist. Keep us in the loop in how it goes. My goal with this blog is to be a support group for pilon fracture sufferers.

          Liked by 1 person

  5. Anyone who just became weight bearing feel sore in the shin muscles along the tibia? I have soreness, considering the ankle I hurt was a flat foot which can contribute to this. Seems to be tender along the tibia. Any thoughts?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I has sore muscles in the shin for sure. Went away around 5 months after weight bearing as i recall. Its still Not 100% gone, just probably used to it enough that I don’t notice much anymore.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks ! Just became full weight bearing may 31 and was on my feet all day celebrating the next day. Found out I put in orthotics for both feet and felt better. I know more therapy exercises to help strengthen the ankle will alleviate the stress on the shin…not a therapist just doing slot of reading on this.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Quick question if you do a lot of walking do you swell more in the ankle Achilles’ tendon ? I seem to lose range and get stiff quickly. Every night I stretch and ice which helps it feel better the next day. Any thoughts ?

        Liked by 1 person

        • My achilles still gets stiff and irritated but less and less. I walk in a brace and have very little range but still the tendons at the back and sides of the ankle get irritated when walking a long time. Its less now than it was. I definitely find relief in ice, elevation, and massaging the calf with one of those sticks with rollers on it.

          Liked by 1 person

  6. I have pilon fx from 5.2.2015. I still have a bad limp. The bottom of my foot hurts a lot. Toes are numb and Achilles’ tendon is tight. I can’t lift up on my toes and cannot apply weight equally. I don’t want to accept that this is permanent. I struggle to do things with family. I walk so slow. Will the soft tissue injury on the bottom of my foot ever heal so that I can walk without a limp. I work out and walk daily… Trying to return to normal.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Hi everyone, thank you for writing this. It help so much. I was in an car accident on 8/18/2016. Unfortunately, i got a pilon fracture on my right leg. 12 screws and 2 plates like the picture above. Im so depress because like you all, i love to be on the go. Out and about. Im am currently on the non weight bearing stage and i have so many question. Im am slightly moving my ankle again, its just very stiff. Yesterday i had to go in for wound check because on 9/16/2016 one of my doctors removed my stitches, while removing one set of stitches, i had a water blister near it she accidentally popped it and she put steri tape over. The liquid got trapped under the tape and it cause the wound to get wet. She told me i can shower but stay approximately 10 minutes or less. i thought were infection cause it was draining liquid. So i when in yesterday and my doctor took a picture sent it to the surgeon and he stated its the different layers of skin regrowing itself. And she dressed it with a saline gauze and two dry gauze so it can suck up the drainage so it can heal faster. So she told me to come in on tuesday so we can see its progress. I hope it goes well. Please if you have anymore information that can help me with my healing process, do tell. Thank you all!!!!


    • I remember my wound was horrifying to observe…even though it never had any complications or infection. There were so many layers of skin and a lot of blisters in that area because everything was so messed up but at a year and a half from surgery (now) my scars look very good.
      I remember being really nervous about my main incision because it looked like it was not going to ever heal correctly. Time is your best friend and being patient is hard but focusing on other things while all the body damage works itself out is helpful.
      My ankle got a lot more motion and a lot less painful with steady physical therapy and lots of gentle massage around the malleoli and arch and calf and Achilles tendon area. I, plus my therapist, did a lot of gentle manipulation of the calcaneus and the toes and the tib/fib(later on) and I did a lot of gentle exercises. I really think gentle is important. There’s a ton of moving parts in the ankle and foot, immobilizing all that area plus the trauma from the injury and the surgery will cause all that stuff to feel very stiff and seized up but it will loosen up later. and there’s very little blood flow to this area so managing The swelling, and not irritating the ankle is helpful. When you finally get to be weight-bearing I would encourage you to really go easy.
      And i wish someone told me this: Give your self a two-year frame of reference for improvement. Not six months, not a year. Everything started to look a lot more optimistic at about a year and a half. I feel very stable and I even feel improvements at 18 months but in the early days I was contemplating volunteering for amputation just so I could get rid of this piece of crap left foot and put on a prosthetic. I am just waiting to schedule my ankle fusion surgery because I have very little cartilage in my ankle and I’m very excited about getting an ankle fusion because everything I have learned is that it will bring me back to a very normal left leg. I did not believe that when I heard it but now I understand and compared to what I’ve got now, it would be an improvement. I can walk pretty normally in boots with my Afo brace, but barefoot like at the beach or at a swimming pool I walk like a cripple
      Good luck and keep the communication going and take up a hobby like playing guitar 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Wow! I feel alittle relieved… i mean i will try and take my time. I am currently have a bad headache. Im guessing due to oxy and pers withdrawals. I decided to go cold turkey. Its my fourth day off them and ive been sick. Vomiting, insomnia, bad anxiety and i couldnt eat. Now im getting headaches. I feel so tired of it already. They told me to move my ankle little by little. I just want to start walking again. Its so frustrating.


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