The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

How To Treat Arthritis After A Broken Bone

Posted by on Wednesday, July 24th, 2013


It’s presumed that a broken bone can be healed with a cast within three months. In serious cases, we think surgery can fix us — and years later, we’ll be fully healed. Unfortunately, that is simply not the case for many patients. According to the Cleveland Clinic, about 5.6 million Americans are affected by a condition called “post-traumatic arthritis.”

Why Does Post-Injury Arthritis Occur?

The term “arthritis” is simply inflammation of the joint. The most common cause of this inflammation is the wearing away of joint surface cartilage. After a physical injury, it’s common for the cartilage to become damaged or for the mechanics of the joint to change, causing the cartilage to wear out quicker. Continued injury or excess body weight can make the condition worse. Often, it takes years for post-traumatic arthritis to develop.

How Is Arthritis After A Broken Bone Treated?

Treatment for post-traumatic arthritis typically begins with the most conservative methods first. A program of weight loss, low-impact exercise and muscle strength-training may be advocated. Pain management with anti-inflammatory NSAIDs (like Advil, Aleve, Celebrex or Lodine) are standard. People with severe pain may visit the foot doctor for cortisone shots that lubricate the joints. Custom shoes or inserts, walking boots and canes can be used to take pressure off the affected joints as well. While these measures make life more comfortable, they do not cure the arthritis.

Over time, conservative measures may no longer be effective. At this point, our NY podiatrist office will discuss surgical options with you. Surgery for arthritis may include debridement (cleaning out chronically damaged / inflamed tissue), fusing the joints permanently, reconstructing the joint using metal support structures, or fully replacing the joint with an artificial construction. Many people find longer lasting relief with surgery, but the procedure should not be taken lightly.

Risks of Arthritis Treatment

As with any medical treatment, there are risks involved. NSAIDs can cause stomach and intestinal irritation, especially if used over the long-term. In rare cases, kidney or liver problems have been reported. Cortisone shots can raise the heart rate and blood sugar levels. Surgery carries risks of infection, problems with wound healing, damage to surrounding structures, or the wearing out / loosening of implants over time.


New Treatments For Post-Traumatic Arthritis

In more recent years, researchers have looked at the potential for using stem cells to prompt healing in arthritic patients. Duke University Health System scientists found that injecting mesenchymal stem cells into mice with fractures prevented the development of arthritis by altering the balance of inflammation and prompting regeneration. “The stem cells were able to prevent post-traumatic arthritis,” said study author Farshid Guilak, Ph.D.

He added that stem cells have the ability to change the levels of immune factors like cytokines and alter bone healing response. It’s still a challenge to isolate mesenchymal stem cells, which form a very rare cell type in bone marrow, but they have been able to place the cells in low-oxygen conditions where they grow more rapidly in culture. More testing is needed to find out if these same stem cells can facilitate recovery in arthritic joints. One thing you can count on is that we’ll always offer the latest proven technology at our NY podiatrist office.


If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.