Surgical fusion of a joint is one of many methods used to treat painful, arthritic joints. Arthritis that affects a joint following an injury is called secondary osteoarthritis. Secondary arthritis of the ankle is common and often follows a long history of ankle sprains or repetitive injuries to the ankle. A common history I hear in my practice goes something like this; “I had a bad sprain when I was a kid playing basketball. Since that time, my pain has gotten progressively worse and now my life is limited by the daily pain I have in that ankle.”
Adjacent segment disease following ankle fusion
Ankle fusion limits the range of motion of the ankle. Although fusion can resolve pain secondary arthritis of the ankle, fusion is not without problems. On common problem is adjacent segment disease, also called adjacent segment syndrome. Adjacent segment syndrome refers to the load applied to the joints adjacent to the ankle that are forced to pick the ankle’s lost range of motion following fusion. Adjacent segment syndrome following ankle fusion can affect both the knee and midfoot.
One simple way to improve gait following ankle fusion and to cut down on the effects of adjacent segment syndrome is to use a forefoot rocker. A forefoot rocker is a simple shoe modification that helps to decrease load to the forefoot during the final stages of gait (toe off). A clog is a great example of a shoe with a forefoot rocker. Even though the clog has a rigid sole, the forefoot rocker makes it very easy to walk as the foot rolls over the forefoot rocker.
Carbon Fiber Spring Plate improves walking following ankle fusion
Shoe modifications, like a forefoot rocker can be expensive and are limited to only shoes that have a thick sole. An alternative to an external forefoot rocker (shoe modification) is to use an insole with a forefoot rocker. The Carbon Fiber Spring Plate from Myfootshop.com is an excellent example of an insole with a forefoot rocker. Carbon Fiber Spring Plates are light, thin and extremely rigid. The curvature at the forefoot, called toe spring is what provides the same forefoot rocker as previously described in the example of the clog. And with a Carbon Fiber Spring Plate there’s no need to have your shoes modified.
Walking after having your ankle fused is significantly improved with the use of a forefoot rocker. In my practice, a Carbon Fiber Spring Plate is recommended to every fusion patient. I find that the Carbon Fiber Spring Plate enable an earlier transition to weight bearing following ankle fusion and provides ongoing relief as patients become more and more active.