Ankle Agony? Nerve Blocks vs Surgery: Navigating The Path To Pain Relief

Managing Ankle Pain Effectively

The ankle is a complex joint that helps with movement and stability in all facets of life. Like almost any joint, the ankle is prone to injury or degeneration. For instance, a twist or fall can lead to sprains or strains of the ligaments and muscles. Fractures and overuse injuries, like tendonitis, can also occur, especially with age. Another common and painful situation is the degeneration of the bone and cartilage that protects and lubricates the joint. The resulting pain is due to inflammation, including damage to the nearby nerves. Advanced treatment for ankle pain consists of nerve blocks or surgery. Choosing the right option provides the best path to long-term pain relief.

Cool your nerves

A nerve block is a non-invasive procedure that provides immediate pain relief. The technique is ideal for ankle pain sufferers who get no relief from physical therapy (PT) or oral pain medication. Nerve blocks are anesthetic and steroid medication injections that block nerve signals to the brain, disrupting pain. The doctor will use a guided imaging process called fluoroscopy to inject the medication at the right spot. Patients begin to feel relief within a few hours, which can last several months. Additional nerve blocks can be administered throughout the year as needed.

A surgical approach to relief

Nerve blocks aren’t enough for severe degeneration, compound fractures, or ligament damage. The ankle must be supported or reinforced to improve function and reduce pain. The patient likely has difficulty moving, and the pain has now disrupted the quality of life. Surgery involves making incisions along the ankle to access the damaged joint. The surgeon can then perform the appropriate procedures to repair the ankle. An example is arthrodesis, a process that fuses the ankle into a solid bone or a joint replacement in the event of osteoarthritis. For fractures, the ankle is reinforced with metal screws, plates, or other components. Surgery is also essential for repairing ligaments or removing bone spurs. The surgeon will discuss the best option based on the specific injury.

Which approach is best?

The correct procedure is based on the type of injury and the degree of damage to the joint. Chronic nerve pain with no significant damage to the joint will benefit from nerve blocks. A person with ankle pain who wants to avoid surgery can also benefit from the procedure. Surgery is best for individuals with significant joint damage that does not respond to non-surgical treatment. These patients also hope to return to specific activities, like work or sports, and can afford the downtime necessary for recovery. Surgery is becoming more accessible because of minimally invasive techniques. Using small incisions and a tool called an arthroscope, the surgeon can operate without damaging the joint further.

Goodbye ankle agony

Managing ankle pain can be challenging. The slightest deviation on a walking surface can lead to pain and instability. Rest, PT, and pain medications may not be enough to treat this progressively worsening issue. The goal is to find the root cause of the ankle pain and then take the appropriate action. For some people, a nerve block is the answer for immediate pain relief. For other individuals, a more comprehensive approach, like outpatient surgery, can provide long-term relief.


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