Duke Medicine HealthLine
Published: May 15, 2008
Updated: July 2, 2010
Avoiding ankle surgery
James Nunley, MD, chair of orthopaedic surgery, says one of the biggest mistakes people with ankle woes make -- which ultimately leads them to ankle replacement surgery -- is ignoring recurrent ankle sprains.
“It may happen a lot in their 20s, then they’ll have one or two in their 30s and 40s, and they get over them and don’t do anything about them. But each sprain causes more and more damage, and it leads to bad arthritis in their 50s and 60s.”
If you’ve had a number of ankle sprains, he says, visiting an orthopaedic foot and ankle specialist and addressing that instability earlier in life can often stave off more severe arthritis and more invasive surgeries later on.
There’s one rule above all others, says Nunley, if you have ankle arthritis: don’t run.
“It’s 10 times your body weight landing on your ankle,” he says. “And when you sprint, that’s 16 times.” Instead of running, Nunley recommends that people with ankle arthritis focus on water aerobics, the elliptical trainer, and recumbent cycling.