Subtalar Arthritis: Causes, Treatment, Physiotherapy & More

Subtalar Arthritis: Causes, Treatment, Physiotherapy & More

Reviewed By

Dr. Gargi Naha (M.Pth (Musculoskeletal))

Subtalar arthritis is a condition in which the subtalar joint becomes inflamed and painful. Subtalar arthritis includes pain and swelling in the back of the foot.

Subtalar Arthritis: An Overview

The subtalar joint is a joint of the foot which is formed by the articulation of the talus with the calcaneum. The foot suffers from subtalar joint arthritis, which results in the degeneration of cartilage lining the ankle joint. Subtalar arthritis can lead to inflammation of the joint, which can be due to an injury, infection, or other factors. Patients with subtalar arthritis complain of pain on one or both sides of the foot, just below the ankles. 

Pain is usually located just below the level of the inner and outer bones of the ankle. This is commonly illustrated by patients with subtalar arthritis surrounding the affected foot with their toes just below the level of the bony prominences on both sides of the ankle. 

There may also be pain and swelling on the back of the foot or the outside of the foot. Even if the foot loses lateral motion, patients can often be much more active because they have significantly less pain. 

That is why, while eliminating some mobility, it also eliminates pain and improves the function of the rest of the joints of the ankle and foot. Improving ankle mobility can help keep joint surfaces healthy, helping to control pain. Trained muscles can help manage ankle pain, which helps relieve pain and keep the joint healthy for as long as possible.

Treatment Options for Subtalar Arthritis and How it Can be Treated?

Some exercises help improve flexibility and mobility in the foot and ankle, strengthen the muscles that support the ankle, and prevent stiffness and inflammation. Conditioning exercises help the ankle and leg muscles generate force faster, preparing them to act as shock absorbers to protect the ankle. 

Untrained leg muscles are slow to respond to ankle protection, and these jolts can do more damage to the softer bone underneath the cartilage. Fractures, ligament, or cartilage injuries can affect the stability and integrity of the ankle joint by increasing stress on the joint or articular cartilage. 

  1. Elevating the leg and placing an ice pack around the ankle and back of the foot after a workout can help reduce pain and swelling. 

  2. Sometimes a small heel lift or cushion can be inserted into the shoe to relieve pressure on a stiff ankle, helping you enjoy long walks without limping. 

  3. The use of an ankle brace, such as an ankle strap, or even to secure the ankle and hindfoot can be beneficial, as the use of an ankle brace serves to limit movement in the subtalar joint.

  4. Provide extra cushioning and invest in a new comfortable pair of shoes. This might prevent causing strain to the ankles.

  5. Physical therapy or physiotherapy works effectively in reducing the pain caused by subtalar arthritis. Moreover, it makes the muscles around the ankle stronger and helps in bringing back the lost range of movements, and also provides stability to the foot.

  6. Using an assistive device like a walker or a cane would be effective in case the pain is increased. It would help to reduce the load on the joint and in turn reduce strain and pain in the affected area.

The treatment for subtalar arthritis usually includes rest, ice packs, and pain medication. In some cases, surgery may be needed to remove any damaged tissues or cartilage from the joint. Here are all the extra conditioning and steps you could take to alleviate the pain.

What are the Causes of Subtalar Arthrosis?

Subtalar arthritis is a disease that affects the joint between the foot and ankle. It is a result of excessive wear and tears on the joint due to overuse or injury. The root cause of chronic lateral ankle pain is not always clear. However, it can be caused by an injury or even certain types of footwear.

The subtalar joint has a large range of motion and because of this, it is prone to injury. When you walk, your feet are constantly moving up and down. This puts a lot of stress on the joints in your feet and can cause arthritis in these joints over time. If you have arthritis in your subtalar joint, you might experience pain while walking or standing up from sitting down.

If a person has arthritis around the subtalar joint with an imbalance of the arch of the foot, arch support can help properly align the heel and hindfoot. Insoles and foot and ankle reinforcements can limit abnormal movement, relieving pain. If the ankle does not recover well, the bones can rub against each other and cause pain. 

Is Footwear Causing Your Chronic Ankle Pain?

Footwear plays a major role in ankle and foot health. As per reports, certain footwear has been a cause of subtalar arthritis. Footwears are not a direct cause rather people with previous ankle injuries are more prone to developing subtalar arthritis. You could be setting yourself up for foot and ankle pain if your shoes are either too tight, too loose, or lack sufficient support.

Conclusion: The Best Treatment Methods & Solutions to Prevent Subtalar Arthritis

The subtalar joint is a hinge type joint, which means that it can flex and extend but not move side-to-side. In a nutshell, your pain can cause muscle spasms, in which your muscles try to protect the sore joints by preventing you from moving your ankle. Chronic ankle instability and pre-existing ankle arthritis also stress the subtalar joint, causing wear and tear. 

The load on the subtalar joint can be unevenly distributed when the heel rotates inward or outward. Activities such as walking on uneven ground, which require some lateral movement to adapt, exacerbate subtalar arthritis.

The treatment of Subtalar Arthritis is completely dependent on the severity of the condition. In mild cases, medical management with home remedies is enough whereas surgeries are required in severe cases.

Once the inflammation subsides, a stretching and strengthening program is generally offered by physiotherapists to restore flexibility and improve strength to reduce stress on the affected joint. As the pain subsides, more vigorous degrees of range of motion can be used to stretch the tissues around the joint, which helps restore better ankle mobility.

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