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Family Foot Care & Surgery, LLC

Osteochondritis: Lesions in the Joint

Imagine if part of a wooden door frame splintered, and a chip of wood ended up in between the hinges. The foreign object would obstruct the hinge, making it difficult—or impossible—to close the door. Foreign objects in your body’s “hinges,” or joints, can obstruct your motions, too, leading to joint pain. One such issue is osteochondritis.

Chips of Bone in the “Hinge”

Motion between bones creates friction, so your body has smooth cartilage capping the ends of all your bones to reduce the grinding. The caps provide a soft, lubricated surface so your limbs move more easily. Osteochondritis is a painful lesion that develops in this cartilage. A small section of the bone beneath the cap loses its normal blood supply and weakens. The cartilage then begins to pull away from the bone, sometimes pulling a tiny piece of bone tissue with it. If the damaged tissue becomes loose, it may slide into the joint and painfully impair motion.

The condition is uncomfortable and can make normal physical activity difficult for you. You’ll notice the pain most when you’re active and straining the affected joint. Swelling and tenderness is common. You may feel like your joint is “giving out” underneath you when you put weight on it. A lesion that’s loose in your joint will decrease your range of motion. As the problem worsens, you might even notice a popping sensation when you try to move your foot, or find your joint gets “locked” in one position.

Pounding on Cartilage

No one is entirely sure what causes the loss of blood flow that leads to osteochondritis, but repetitive trauma and pressure are considered the most likely culprits. It’s actually most common in young people between the ages of 10 and 20, though it can appear later in life as well. Young athletes involved in high-impact sports have the highest risk; the heavy demands that sports put on the feet can wear down the joints. The older you are when the problem appears, the more likely that the issue will be serious.

Steps toward Recovery

The lesion will need to be treated so your joint can move smoothly and painlessly. Dr. Sanjay Patel will carefully examine your lower limbs to check for damage to your cartilage and the ends of your bones, so the problem is diagnosed accurately. Our staff will use diagnostic images to confirm the condition. Then our staff will help you begin treatment to heal the separated sliver.

In some cases—particularly younger children who are still growing—the injury heals fairly well on its own, with minimal treatment. Children will need to temporarily avoid strenuous activities with hard impacts so that the lesion can regain normal blood flow. Icing any swelling may help decrease the discomfort. For older teens and adults with osteochondritis, or children who need more involved therapies, additional conservative measures may be more helpful. Your foot may need to be immobilized for a time so motion in your joint doesn’t aggravate the condition. In some cases you may need to avoid weight-bearing as well. Physical therapy can help you regain your range of motion and condition your limb to handle your activities when you’ve completely healed.

Occasionally, noninvasive therapies are not enough. You may need surgery to regain your joint’s mobility. The type of procedure will largely depend on how much the sliver of bone and cartilage has separated inside your joint. Sometimes the lesion can be pinned back in place so the bone heels. In other cases, though, the sliver will need to be removed so it doesn’t lock or restrict your range of motion.

Osteochondritis is an unpleasant issue that can restrict your joints and cause you pain, but it doesn’t have to create chronic issues. Taking care of the problem restores your joint to full strength. Don’t wait until you have a hard time moving your feet at all to seek help—the sooner you deal with the issue, the better for your body. Let Family Foot Care & Surgery, L.L.C. help. Just use the website contact form or call us for an appointment: (203) 876-7736 for the Milford office, or (203) 288-4055 for our Hamden office.

Dr. Sanjay V. Patel
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Dr. Patel has over 20 years of experience in the field of podiatric medicine and podiatric surgery.