Two types of injections have been used to provide temporary relief from ankle osteoarthritis pain: steroid injections and hyaluronic acid (hyaluronate) injections.
The goal of steroid injections (e.g. corticosteroid injections) is to reduce swelling and thereby alleviate stiffness and pain.
Hyaluronic acid (hyaluronate) injections
The goal of hyaluronic acid injections is to provide lubrication for the ankle joint, as hyaluronic acid mimics the viscous synovial fluid that naturally lubricates the ankle joint.
These two types of injections have been used to treat ankle arthritis for years; however, most research regarding their use focuses on treating knee arthritis rather than ankle arthritis.
The research specific to ankle arthritis has had mixed results. For example, in a 2011 study ankle arthritis patients who received three weekly hyaluronic acid injections showed improvement, while in a 2012 study patients who received one hyaluronic acid injection did no better than patients who received a placebo.24,25
Most doctors agree that more research needs to be done regarding the exact dosages - the potency and frequency of injections - and their effectiveness in treating ankle arthritis.
Injections may be preceded by joint aspiration. An injection should never be done if an infection is present, as it may facilitate the spread of infection to other areas of the body.
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Occasionally, medical interventions are not enough to adequately treat ankle arthritis symptoms. In these cases, surgical options may be considered.
- Shu-Fen Sun, Chien-Wei Hsu, Hsien-Pin Sun, Yi-Jiun Chou, Hung-Ju Li, Jue-Long Wang; The Effect of Three Weekly Intra-Articular Injections of Hyaluronate on Pain, Function, and Balance in Patients with Unilateral Ankle Arthritis. The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery. 2011 Sep;93(18):1720-1726.
- Henry DeGroot, III, Sofia Uzunishvili, Robert Weir, Ali Al-omari, Bruna Gomes; Intra-Articular Injection of Hyaluronic Acid Is Not Superior to Saline Solution Injection for Ankle Arthritis A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study. The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery. 2012 Jan;94(1):2-8.