What is Ankle Degenerative Joint Disease and What is It Doing to Your Ankle Joint?

Published: 24th August 2010
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Did you know there are over 50 different types of arthritis? They can be classified into three categories:

1. Inflammatory- for example rheumatoid arthritis

2. Metabolic- for example gout

3. Non-inflammatory- for example degenerative joint disease

Degenerative joint disease (DJD) has several different names, for example osteoarthritis (OA), wear and tear or degenerative disc disease (DDD) are all commonly used but I think degenerative joint disease describes the condition the best.

Anyway ankle degenerative joint disease is simply a wearing of the cartilage (the cushioning material inside the joint) so eventually, in severe cases, bottom of the shin bone ( the tibia) rubs on the bone that is on the top of the foot (the calcaneus). Now obviously that is painful but did you know it is probably NOT the only cause of the pain and/or the stiffness you are suffering from if you have ankle degenerative joint disease?


In most cases the wearing of the joint is not the only cause of pain for a sufferer of ankle degenerative joint disease.

The muscles, tendons and ligaments around the joint can give pain too. This happens because as the ankle joint becomes worn it hurts and that means that you tend not to move the ankle so much and you compensate by using the low back, hip and the knee more. Also when you do move your ankle you tend to limit the movement. The problem with that is that the ligaments, muscles and tendons (collectively known as the soft tissue) around the joint become irritated by not being used. These include the muscles in your shin, calf and foot as well.

Soft tissue likes to be used and so it actually become inflamed with lack of use which gives rise to pain and stiffness when they are used. (If you are unsure about this just ask anyone who has fractured a bone how painful it is to get the soft tissue moving again after being in a cast for a while). This inflammation is also painful and so the ankle joint is used even less.

The end result is a rapidly downwards spiral as the ankle joint gets stiffer and stiffer and more and more painful as it is used it less and less. This is how your ankle degenerative joint disease can quickly take control of your life.


The Arthritis Foundation says that

"Treatment of degenerative joint disease varies with the severity of the symptoms and focuses on decreasing pain and improving joint movement."

There are lots of different ways they suggest you do this by using drugs, rest, physical activity, joint protection (splints and supports), use of heat and cold to reduce pain plus physical therapy.

So master all these and you will have learnt how to control your ankle degenerative joint disease symptoms!

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