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Causes Of Foot & Ankle Osteoarthritis

Arthritis” is an umbrella term used to describe the hundreds of diseases that cause acute or chronic joint inflammation and lead to swelling, pain, and reduced motion in the problem area. In particular, osteoarthritis – also known as degenerative arthritis – is a form of arthritis that arises with age or overuse. 

Over time, OA wears down the cartilage (the spongy connective tissue) responsible for cushioning the joints, protecting the surrounding bones from friction and shock, and facilitating painless movement. 

Although aging is considered to be the main cause of OA, there are other risk factors to watch out for. Let’s look at the most common causes and risk factors for foot and ankle OA below. 


Although you can develop OA at any age, degenerative joint disease is more likely as you age and is often caused by overuse. The CDC estimates that 50% of adults aged 65 or over suffer from some form of OA. 


Being overweight can trigger or worsen ankle and foot OA by adding excessive pressure on the joints. In severe cases, obesity can lead to disability and comorbidities that can worsen the OA. 

For example:

  • Obesity can worsen the risk of heart and circulatory diseases, which can restrict blood flow and the supply of nutrients to joints affected by OA, thus worsening pain and inflammation. 
  • Obesity can lead to a more sedentary lifestyle, which can increase the risk of degenerative arthritis. 
  • The risk of depression is higher among obese people. In turn, depression can lead to a more sedentary lifestyle, which worsens OA, and causes people to experience pain more intensely.

What’s more, fat is chemically-active and produces inflammatory proteins, making it more difficult for the body to fight inflammatory diseases. 

Traumatic Injuries

New and old ankle or foot injuries can lead to OA. A 2018 study shows that traumatic injuries, such as bone fractures and sprains, are one of the main causes of ankle OA, especially among younger patients. 

Genetics And Anatomic Factors

If you have a family history of osteoarthritis you are at greater risk of developing ankle or foot OA. Additionally, if you have a deformed or misaligned joint, the foot’s improper mechanics can cause strain to areas of the joint that should normally be unaffected by movement. Because of this, these areas can become irritated and inflamed, thus increasing the risk of OA.

Repeated Stress

Although your ankles are constantly in motion, some types of high-impact stress (such as jumping, running, or jogging) sustained throughout long periods can wear down the joint and increase the risk of OA.

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Symptoms Of Foot & Ankle Osteoarthritis

For those suffering from foot or ankle OA, the degeneration of the cartilage in the foot area might cause bones to rub against each other during movements, thus leading to pain, bone damage, and loss of joint function. 

Here are some of the symptoms associated with ankle or foot OA:

Ankle Pain, Stiffness, And Swelling

Although the intensity of OA symptoms varies greatly according to how severe your condition is, you can expect pain, stiffness, and swelling around the ankle or foot area. These sensations usually get worse at the end of the day and after sitting or laying still for prolonged periods.  

Difficulty Walking 

As it wears down the cartilage that keeps the joint movements fluid, OA can cause friction between the bones and other tissues in the joint during movement. This translates into painful motions and affects how you walk and bear weight on the foot. 

Reduced Range Of Motion 

Improper mechanics (which are due to worn cartilage or damaged bones) can also affect your ability to fully bend, flex, or stretch the foot, thus leading to reduced range of motion. A complication of limited mobility is a greater risk of falls and injuries. 

Regenerative Treatment Options For Foot & Ankle Osteoarthritis

Although arthritis is one of the most common musculoskeletal disorders, treatment options have been limited until recently. Today, around 3% of patients with OA are still treated using opioids, while the prescription rates of oxycodone and fentanyl continue to rise.

Given the chronic nature of OA, most patients find themselves living with this disease for an average of 26 years of their lives. Because of this, it is important to look beyond surgical and pharmaceutical treatments as long-term management strategies for ankle joint degenerative disease.

Luckily, regenerative medicine is providing patients with effective, non-invasive, and non-surgical alternatives. These include a combination of high-dose BMA and PRP therapies. Here’s what you need to know:

Concentrated PRP for Foot & Ankle OA

Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) refers to autologous blood samples that have been processed to have platelet concentrations that are 10-40 times higher than baseline levels using a laboratory setting. The use of PRP in regenerative medicine has received significant interest, due to its ability to deliver high concentrations of growth factors precisely and non-invasively to an area in need.

PRP procedures involve injecting the body’s own healing factors (platelets) into the injured tissue using image guidance with fluoroscopy and MSK ultrasound. This procedure can be used to treat a variety of orthopedic conditions, including joint instability, minor arthritis, ligament, and tendon injuries, and strains.

More than 30 randomized controlled trials have been carried out on the effectiveness of PRP to support the body’s ability to heal naturally by stimulating the  cells within the targeted area to repair the damaged tissue.

Stem Cell Injections for Foot & Ankle Osteoarthritis

Stem cells are an essential component of the human body and play an important role in the repair of injured bones, ligaments, tendons, and other tissues. However, when we age or suffer an injury, the body may become unable to deliver enough stem cells to the area in need.

To help with this, bone marrow concentrate procedures at Orthagenex use imaging guidance to deliver concentrated bone marrow containing stem cells to the area in need according to the procedure protocol. This encourages the body’s inherent ability to heal itself by replenishing cell population in the injured area.

In practice, bone marrow concentrate procedures are carried out by cannulating the bone near the pelvis with a trocar, a sharp-tipped device. This provides a narrow tunnel that can be used to collect samples of the bone marrow’s liquid component, which is rich in stem cells.

BMC procedures can assist patients in improving their orthopedic health and mobility without the lengthy and painful rehabilitation periods associated with surgery.



Treating Foot & Ankle Osteoarthritis With Regenerative Treatments: Start Today

When coupled with adequate lifestyle counseling, regenerative treatments such as BMC and PRP can help you avoid or delay surgical interventions. Even more importantly, regenerative procedures can help you improve your foot and ankle health without surgery. Get started today.

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