Recovery Guide for Foot and Ankle Surgery
Healthy feet and ankles are crucial for all of life’s tasks. Surgical repair gives the best chance of a full recovery from a serious injury to either the foot or ankle. Broken bones in your feet and torn ligaments in your ankle won’t hobble or pain you for the rest of your life, thanks to the work of skilled orthopedic surgeons.
With both patience and diligence during the rehabilitation process, you can get back to normal everyday life. For many surgeries, it can take 6–12 weeks before you are back walking freely again, although others may take up to six months before exercise is allowed. Recovery time depends on the severity of the injury and your body’s ability to heal. Follow all your doctor’s orders regarding the recovery and rehabilitation process to see optimal results.
Here are some key short-term and long-term aspects of the recovery process that you should be prepared for.
Short-Term Recovery from Surgery
In the weeks leading up to surgery, you prepare your home for the first couple weeks post-op so that you are as comfortable as possible. The following is a list of important things to remember in the days immediately after your operation.
Don’t put any weight at all onto your repaired foot or ankle until your doctor says it’s okay. Relax and sleep so your body can devote energy to healing the area.
Elevate your foot
The swelling post-surgery can be a problem, so keep the leg elevated six inches above your heart to promote blood flow at all times.
Use ice if there is swelling
If the swelling is still intense, place ice under your knee. You will likely have a thick cast or bandages around the lower leg, so the knee is the closest place you can ice.
Have pre-made meals ready to go
You will want to move around as little as possible to give your foot or ankle more time to heal, so have meals planned out in advance. This could be frozen dinners, pre-cooked meals, and food made by friends or family.
Make your home accessible
Since you can’t walk around without assistance, you might need to move furniture or use a different bedroom. Additionally, you can’t get the cast wet, so a bath or shower seat will help you a lot when you need to bathe.
Follow your doctor’s orders
Never deviate from what your doctor tells you to do. This is the quickest way to have a setback, increase the swelling, or cause yourself a lot of pain. Take antibiotics and pain meds as directed to avoid infections and intense inflammation.
Implementing these practices will serve you well and allow your initial recovery process to go smoothly. Normally after a week or two, you will check back in with your doctor so he or she can monitor the healing process and give further recovery instructions.
Once the region has stopped swelling and has begun to repair, your doctor will put you on a rehabilitation program to slowly strengthen the foot and ankle. This is incredibly important for building back up the muscles, ligaments, and tendons around the area and preparing them for normal and strenuous activities. The goals of foot and ankle rehab are to increase strength and flexibility of soft tissue in the region.
A rehab program always starts slowly with minimal-impact exercises and stretches. It is best to work with a physical therapist at the start to make sure you are doing everything with proper form. Exercises and stretches for foot and ankle rehabilitation can include heel cord stretches, towel stretches, foot circle movements, and foot flexing. With patience and persistence, you will make a full recovery.
The foot and ankle repair specialists at Orthopeadic Associates of St. Augustine can repair your injury, assist you in the recovery process, and get you back to doing what you love most. From the sure hands of our surgeons to our knowledgeable rehabilitation team, we can guide you through every step of the process and provide you with world-class care. To request an appointment, please fill out our online form or call our offices at 904-825-0540.
KURTIS HORT, MD Diplomate of the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery and a member of the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society. Dr. Hort specializes in reconstructive procedures of the foot and ankle.