Osteoarthritis of the Foot and Ankle

By Robert H. Sheinberg, D.P.M., D.A.B.P.S., F.A.C.F.A.S.

Osteoarthritis is a wearing out of the cartilage at the end of the bones that form a joint. The cartilage gives us smooth gliding joints and allows the joint to function without pain. When the cartilage wears down, bones start to rub against each other causing pain.  Swelling and bone spurs develop around the joint as well.  

It is usually caused by injuries to the joint from trauma or from repetitive stress. Abnormal bone and joint position may also be present that may be hereditary in nature or acquired over time.  

Stiffness in the joint (foot or ankle) is almost always present. When getting up from sitting or when getting out of bed, there may be difficulty weightbearing. As one walks it may improve. Over time the stiffness lasts longer, and the joint starts to ache. There will be a chronic low-grade swelling to the joint that is affected and difficulty with certain exercises or shoe gear will also be present. There will be tenderness around the joint and pain with moving the joint. Difficulty running or being generally active because of the pain will also be present.

Treatment is aimed at identifying the joint involved and reducing the inflammation. Oral or injectible medication will help to reduce some of the inflammation and proper shoe gear or orthotics may help to lessen the inflammation around the area. Physical therapy may be necessary to improve range of motion and stability.  

When conservative care fails, arthroscopic procedures may be necessary to remove any of the damaged tissue in the joint. Open procedures may also be needed if the joint is not accessible to arthroscopy. In some cases, surgery may be necessary on the joint itself to reposition the bones in the joint giving them better position, allowing more normal mobility. If arthritis is severe, joint replacement or joint fusions may be necessary and will have a huge positive impact on one’s life, allowing the patient freedom of mobility to perform activities of daily living and also sports. Prognosis is good to excellent in almost all cases.

  • Dr. Robert Sheinberg is a Board-Certified Foot, Ankle and Leg Specialist practicing in Weston and Pembroke Pines since 1988. He specializes in the treatment of infants, children, teens and adults with injuries, pain and deformities. His associates, Doctors Messina, Cohen, DeSimone, Moya, Bertot, Shenassa, Jones and Goodner, care for all musculoskeletal injuries from head to toe. The South Florida Institute of Sports Medicine in Pembroke Pines is located at 17842 NW 2nd Street, 954-430-9901, in Weston at 1600 Town Center Blvd., Suite C, 954-389-5900, and in Plantation at 220 S.W. 84th Avenue, Suite 102, 954-720-1530. The practice website is