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Best Treatments for Arthritic Ankles

by Patty Weasler, RN January 28, 2021 0 Comments

wearing bamboo ankle sleeve

Do you struggle with painful symptoms caused by ankle arthritis? Treatment for arthritic ankles often includes therapies like rest, compression, and exercise. For more severe causes or when the arthritis becomes too advanced some might need medical intervention. Arthritis of the ankle will never go away but with adequate treatment, you can manage the symptoms with these pain relief methods.

Treating Ankle Arthritis at Home

There are two main types of arthritis that affect the ankle joint: osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis is the wear and tear type that causes the cartilage to wear away. It generally affects older people. Rheumatoid arthritis is an immune system disease sometimes called inflammatory arthritis, that causes swelling in the synovium around the joint.

Learn More About Arthritic Ankles Here


One of the best ways to treat ankle arthritis is to rest. This will give your body time to heal without the continued stress and strain of everyday activities. We know it’s hard to kick up your heels when you have work to do but it’ll benefit you so much in the long run. Ankle pain won’t go away on its own, so take it as a sign that you need a break.

Compression Sleeves & Ankle Braces

One way to find pain relief when you have ankle arthritis is to use a compression sleeve or ankle brace. A compression sleeve is a good place to start as it provides minimal support to your joint but the pressure will reduce swelling. An ankle brace would be the next treatment option, it will take the pressure off of your ankle and reduce movement in the joint.

How to Find the Right Ankle Brace

Cold therapy & Heat Therapy

Arthritis of the foot and ankle can create stiffness and tenderness that makes it hard to walk, especially in the morning. Cold therapy with an ice pack will reduce pain and swelling. Whereas heat will soothe soreness and can improve healing by increasing blood flow to the area. If you’ve been especially active try using an ice pack to reduce the pain. Apply that heat in the morning or anytime you’re stiff and want to loosen up.


Arthritis is a joint condition but the surrounding muscles can become tight from limited movement. Massage uses gentle to firm pressure to release tension and muscle knots. Try massaging your calf muscles to release any built up tension and stiffness. You can use your hands or a massage tool to press deeper into the soft tissues. Avoid massage if you have a history of clots or bleeding disorders.

Pain Cream

When you have arthritis using multiple treatment options can provide the best results. Pain cream is another treatment that gives you some short term relief from arthritis pain. There are three types of pain creams: counterirritants, capsaicin, and salicylates. Each one works a bit differently and can be used for ankle arthritis. Counterirritants cool or warm to the skin to confuse the brain. Capsaicin interrupts the pain signals and salicylates reduce swelling. You may also want to consider using  pain cream infused with CBD.


Arthritis brings along several symptoms that can really interfere with your quality of life. Exercise, though it sounds painful and counterintuitive for people with arthritis, can help you manage many of the symptoms. Focus on strengthening your leg muscles and maintaining the range of motion in your ankle joint. Reach out to your local physical therapist if you need guidance. They can support you through physical therapy sessions catered to your situation.

Exercises for Ankle Arthritis

Kinesiology Tape

Kinesiology tape is worn over the ankle and lower leg to improve your body awareness, provide ankle joint support, and to increase both your lymphatic and blood flow. The tape can be worn for several days and can reduce inflammation and pain. Use in conjunction with other treatment options for the best outcome.

Shoe Inserts & Proper Footwear

Shoe inserts or orthotics are used to stabilize your joints and to evenly distribute your weight to prevent excessive pressure on certain points in your feet. There are several orthotics available, look for ones that have plenty of cushioning for the bottom of your feet. The right type of shoes can make a difference in those with ankle arthritis. Rocker bottom shoes or shoes with stiffer soles can reduce pressure and pain.

Guide to Choosing Insoles

Vitamins and Supplements

The two most popular supplements used to prevent or treat arthritis are glucosamine and chondroitin. They help to improve function and reduce pain, although there are conflicting studies that suggest they are no more effective than placebo. Fish oil is another treatment that is useful for those with rheumatoid arthritis. It contains anti-inflammatory properties that can work to manage the symptoms of RA. S-adenosyl-methionine (SAM-e) is a supplement that can protect your cartilage, reduce pain and inflammation. Lastly, curcumin is a component of turmeric and has strong anti-inflammatory properties.

Anti-inflammatory Medications

Over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen and naproxen reduce pain and swelling making them a good choice for those with ankle arthritis. They have few side effects, making them safe for just about everyone. But always talk to your doctor or pharmacist before you start a new medication to ensure it’s safe for you.

Medical Treatment for Ankle Arthritis

When home treatment just isn’t enough then it’s time to seek medical treatment. 

Steroid injections

Steroid injections contain powerful medications that reduce inflammation within the ankle joint. The injection will contain a numbing medication along with the corticosteroid and can be injected in your doctor’s office. You will be limited in the number of steroid injections that you can receive, so talk to your doctor regarding the benefits and risks associated with the treatment.

Ankle Surgery

When conservative nonsurgical treatment cannot control the pain and the discomfort of ankle arthritis then it’s time to consider surgical options. Your orthopedic surgeon will review your medical history and order diagnostic imaging like x-rays. There are two common surgeries used for ankle arthritis: total ankle replacement and an ankle fusion. Here is a little bit more about them.

Total Ankle Replacement

Ankle replacement surgery (arthroplasty) is the preferred surgery for most patients. The surgeon removes the damaged cartilage and bone and then makes new joint surfaces with metal or plastic. This surgery allows the patient to retain ankle movement.

Ankle Fusion

An ankle fusion, medically known as arthrodesis, is used during end-stage ankle arthritis. The surgeon fuses the bones together so that there is no movement in the ankle. This ultimately eliminates pain but it does completely restrict movement within the ankle joint.

Better Manage Arthritic Ankle Pain

Treatment for arthritic ankles needs to start with preventive measures. Taking care of yourself and your feet should be first on the list. If you carry extra weight, then work with your doctor to develop a weight loss program. Wear the right shoes and exercise regularly. If you do develop arthritis try home treatments and if those are unsuccessful seek out medical advice. Always talk to your doctor before you begin a new treatment to ensure it is right for you.


Ankle Arthritis Products


Patty Weasler, RN
Patty Weasler, RN

Patty Weasler is a freelance health writer and nurse. She is certified in critical care nursing and has been practicing for over 10 years. Patty lives in Milwaukee, WI with her husband and three children. She enjoys spending her time with family and educating people about their health.

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