Recovering From Foot and Ankle Surgery

Foot and ankle injuries can often throw our lives off track. For those undergoing surgery, time and patience are key to recovery. No matter the length of your recovery, there are steps you can take to make this process as painless and swift as possible.

What are some common post-surgery mistakes?

The most important thing to keep in mind is to leave everything alone. Don’t try to change your dressing yourself. If you’re told to keep your foot elevated, make sure it remains consistently elevated. Your doctor’s instructions after surgery are vital to the recovery process. Ignoring them could leave you in pain and healing slower.

“The first 48-72 hours are the most important for managing pain and swelling. You can’t get that time back,” said Benjamin R. Proto, DPM, FACFAS of TPMG Orthopedics. “Disrupting this crucial time for healing can mean a longer recovery for patients.”

How do I prepare for my post-surgery recovery?

There are a few ways to best prepare yourself for the recovery process. First, it is necessary for the patient to ask questions during the preoperative exam. Each surgery is different and requires a different recovery process, so it is important to know what to expect beforehand. Here are just a few questions you can bring to your appointment:

• What is my expected recovery time?
• How long will I have to take off from work?
• What will I feel like a month out from surgery? A year?
• Will I require physical therapy or follow-ups?
• Will I need to arrange for a ride home?
• Will I need someone to help me around the house?

Your support system is extremely important to your recovery. So important that, in some cases, your doctor might change your treatment in order to make sure the support system you have in place will match your recovery needs. Asking questions like these is vital to the recovery process. You and your doctor might even discuss if your house has a second floor. For some surgeries, it may be easier to move your living area downstairs to limit the amount of time you spend walking up and down the stairs.

What are some common post-operative instructions I can expect?

Ice and elevation for the first 48-72 hours are fairly common instructions for those recovering from foot and ankle surgery. Doctors might also prescribe pain medication or aspirin therapy. Another common post-operative instruction is that patients stay off their injury while it heals.

“Give yourself that good start. I can always tell when patients are taking care of it [the injury] and when they are not,” said Dr. Proto. “Swelling and inflammation are signs you might need to stay off your foot or leg for longer than you are.”

Remember to keep your dressings dry. For those who still prefer showers after surgery, consider buying a waterproof cast protector, that way you don’t have to hang a foot out the shower door. Showering stools or benches can also make it easier for post-surgical patients, that way they can rest their legs.

What tools can patients use to make their recovery process easier?

What you need to recover from foot and ankle surgery will differ depending on the type of surgery you require and your individual needs. Some patients require a wheelchair, while some prefer crutches. There are many different devices out there to help you navigate. For many, crutches can cause trouble. Knee scooters are another option that requires less strength, while still giving you mobility. Some patients choose walkers with a built-in stool for times when they need rest. Whatever you choose, make sure it is the right tool for you. Consider your strength and endurance and how surgery could affect your abilities.

What are some signs you may want to follow up with a doctor?

A little bleeding through your dressing is normal; however, if there is excessive or non-stop bleeding, you should contact your physician. Fever, chills, and additional falls are also cause for concern. If you experience pain that won’t go away, even with medication, you should also call your doctor.

Some patients six weeks to six months out from surgery will experience occasional stabbing pains or slight discoloration in the foot. These can often be related to normal healing process. However, if there is concern bring your questions to your doctor directly. It is better to be informed than wondering if everything is okay.

Recovering from foot and ankle surgery is not always a painless process, but following your doctor’s instructions and preparing properly for your surgery can make the process easier for you and your family. Talk to one of TPMG’s orthopedic foot and ankle surgeons to learn more about the recovery process.

Benjamin Proto

About Dr. Benjamin R. Proto, DPM, FACFAS

Benjamin R. Proto, DPM, FACFAS, joined TPMG Orthopedics in 2007 and has established himself as one of the Peninsula’s leading foot and ankle specialists, offering his patients the latest advancements in foot and ankle care. In his surgical practice, Dr. Proto utilizes minimally invasive techniques and specializes in partial and total joint replacement of the foot and ankle, ankle arthroscopy, and ankle fusion to address painful and dysfunctional joints.

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