Orthopaedics

What is Ankle Synovitis?

Firstly, ankle joint is a synovial joint because it contains the soft tissue synovium. Ankle synovitis is the inflammation of the synovium. The synovium is a membrane that acts as a cushion in between the joint spaces in the ankles. Synovitis of the ankle can be the resultant of autoimmune disorders like gout and rheumatoid arthritis or a fracture.

Ankle Synovitis

Just like the cartilage that performs a lubricating action between the bones, the synovial membraneis essential to protect the joint spaces in the ankles and the ankle joint itself. Another function of this membrane is to allow a free and smooth movement of the ankle.

  • But if the ankle were to get injured or get affected by an infection or a disease, the ankle joint would swell which would place an immense pressure on the synovial membrane causing it to inflame and thus, allowing the synovial fluid contained within to leak into the joint.
  • This leakage of the fluid would lead to cartilage degradation, joint instability and can potentially block the supply of nutrients to the surrounding regions.

Causes

Other than the autoimmune disorders like gout and RA, other reasons that can lead to synovitis of the ankle joint are-

  • sprains which have a direct impact on the synovial membrane
  • viral or bacterial infections
  • muscle weakness and imbalance
  • athletes who fail to properly support their ankles during sporting activities can also inflame their synovium.

Symptoms

The following are the symptoms of synovitis-

  • mild or sharp pain, usually in the front or to the sides and occasionally to the back of the ankle
  • morning stiffness that would recede as the day progresses
  • heated ankle
  • limited motion of the ankle

Interestingly, people would not observe any swelling on the outside. But internally, the synovial membrane is swollen due to fluid accumulation.

Treatment and Prevention

For any orthopedic injury, the first thing to be done is to rest and not to get involved in any kind of weight bearing activities. NSAIDs and corticosteroids (in severe cases) are usually prescribed by doctors to deal with the pain. Massaging the region or applying heat packs can also temporarily relieve pain.

  • After the onset of inflammation, it can up to 5 weeks for the ankle to heal.
  • Ankle synovitis can be prevented by implementing a protein-rich diet, proper warming up before participating in sports and by properly protecting the ankle during sporting activities.

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