5 Things to Do When Recovering from Foot or Ankle Surgery

Nov 19, 2020

Let’s just be honest about it: Nobody really enjoys the recovery period after a foot or ankle surgery.

Depending on the nature of your procedure, you can generally expect to spend at least a couple of weeks—and in some cases a couple of months—off your feet. That will be followed by some rehab, and probably a gradual return to your previous activity levels.

It won’t pass as quickly as you want it to. It won’t always be easy. But it doesn’t have to be miserable!

In fact, there are many things you can do throughout your recovery to not only make the experience an easier and more pleasant one, but also accelerate the healing process and make the quickest possible recovery.

Coordinate with Your Caregivers

For some of you, this will be no problem at all. For others? Not so much. Not every person has an easy time asking for help. 

When you’re recovering from foot surgery, though, it’s important to make sure you have people around to support you, especially during those first few days and weeks after your surgery. 

In addition to having somebody on hand to drive you home immediately after the procedure, it’s good to make sure you’ll at least have someone able to drop by on a daily basis, or just be on hand to shop for you, clean for you, or help you with other tasks you can’t accomplish on your own.

Given the current pandemic, the ideal scenario is that this person already lives with you or is in your “bubble,” such as a spouse or adult child. If not, make sure you take any necessary precautions, including wearing masks and frequently washing hands.

5 Things to Do When Recovering from Foot or Ankle Surgery

Stock Up on Consumables and Get Ahead on Your Chores

Now, let’s be clear. We’re not telling you to go out and buy up all the rest of the toilet paper at your local supermarket. Especially not now, in the middle of a pandemic. Don’t be a hoarder!

That said, it would be a good idea to at least make sure you’re all set for at least a couple of weeks on common household consumables, including paper products, garbage bags, pantry foods, etc.

If you have time to pre-make some frozen meals, that can also save you not only a trip to the store, but a lot of time and stress in the kitchen, too! And it’s also a great idea to get out in front of any semi-regular chores so you’re not worried about whether you can find a clean shirt two days after surgery.

  • Bearing weight for long periods. Standing for long periods of time can cause heel pain. This is especially true with hard flooring or surfaces.
  • Age. Your age is a good indicator as to why your heels are in pain. The older you are, the more prone you will be to experiencing discomfort.
  • Obesity. If your body mass is higher than average, then your feet and ankles are also under higherthanaverage pressure which can lead to heel pain.
  • Ill-fitting footwear. Wearing shoes that provide poor shock absorption and support – especially during high impact activities – is actually one of the main causes for heel pain.  

The right footwear is, therefore, vital for preventing injuries. So, the most probable solution to your issue is, of course, to wear appropriate footwear. This can minimize – if not altogether eliminate – foot pains. That being said, you should always opt for supportive shoes, keeping in mind the specific industry requirements which apply to your job. A balance between both will be your “sweet spot.”

Prepare Your Home to Be a Place of Healing

In the days and weeks after surgery, you’ll likely be told to avoid putting too much (if any) weight on your foot, avoid unnecessary physical labor, and rest as much as possible. You’ll also, obviously, prefer to avoid any preventable accidents when moving around the house, or navigating up and down stairs. 

This is a lot harder to do if your living space is a minefield of clutter, difficult-to-access items, and other “obstacles” that aren’t so bad when you’re healthy, but extremely frustrating when you aren’t!

To help make your home as conducive to healing as possible, consider:

  • Moving your primary sleeping, dressing, and bathing areas to the main floor of your home (as much as possible) to avoid unnecessary trips up and down the stairs.
  • Thoroughly cleaning your home of clutter, unnecessary furniture, cords, or other obstacles that could pose tripping or navigation hazards.
  • Setting up night lights around the house so that, if you do have to move about in the dark, you can always see where you’re going.
  • Relocating any frequently used items (pantry items, cookware, clothing, etc.) to places where you won’t have to reach up high or bend over to access them.
  • Installing grab bars, non-skid mats, and other aids to bathrooms, kitchens, and anywhere else you need a little extra stability.

Keep Your Brain Engaged

One of the hardest things for many people to deal with during the post-surgery recovery period is the boredom. This is especially true if you’re used to being extremely active in your daily life.

This is another area where preparation really can be crucial. If you don’t go in with a plan, you might find yourself simply crashing on the couch without any clue of what you should be doing besides, well, sitting.

So think about what you might like to focus on for the few weeks when you’ll need to rest your feet. Here are some quick ideas:

  • Pick out some shows and movies to watch. Get up to speed on the latest dramas all the kids are talking about these days, or take some time to re-watch or catch up on the classics.
  • Select some books to read. If you take a trip to the library a couple of days before surgery, you can arm yourself with hours upon hours of enjoyment as you recover.
  • Select some games or puzzles to do. Whether you prefer jigsaw puzzles, crosswords, sudoku, or massively multiple online role-playing games, now is the time!
  • Develop a new skill or hobby. Did you always want to learn to sew or play guitar? Make more time for your scrapbooking? Learn how to code? While you’re waiting for your foot to heal, what’s stopping you?
  • Write some letters. In the middle of a pandemic, almost all of us are feeling a little disconnected from loved ones. A hand-written letter to someone you haven’t connected with in a while can be a meaningful experience—for you and the person you’re writing to!

As your foot continues to heal, we may clear you to begin re-introducing some no-impact or low-impact exercises to help get you moving again.

Young woman with broken leg in cast reading book while sitting on sofa at home

Follow Your Post-Surgical Instructions Closely

We really cannot overstate this. Following your post-surgical care instructions is often just as important as the surgery itself in terms of both how quickly and how well you recover.

Hopefully, this is your first (and last surgery). This is all new for you.

Your doctors, though? They have conducted thousands of them. So trust us when we say that we’re not just making this stuff up! Our guidelines are meant to protect you and help you heal as fully, safely, and quickly as possible. So even though you may be tempted to “cheat”—especially if things seem to be going well—make sure you stick to the plan!

Some general considerations and components we may include in your postsurgical plan include:

  • Rest – Surgery is a big deal. If it wasn’t, we wouldn’t take as many measures as possible to avoid using it as a treatment option. Since it is, though, you will need to give your body the chance to perform its natural healing processes after the procedure.
  • Medication – Depending on your procedure and situation, we will likely recommend or prescribe some form of medication for you. The pain-relieving properties of medicine certainly play a role, but the anti-inflammatory ones can be immensely helpful in assisting with your recovery.
  • MLS laser therapy. Laser therapy is often used as a non-surgical treatment option to help people with chronic pain reduce discomfort and accelerate healing. However, it is also a phenomenal tool for assisting patients with post-surgical recovery. It can help pain and swelling go away faster, reduce your need for medications, and even help the surgical site heal faster, too.
  • Restricted movement – In time, the amount and range of movement will increase, but we may recommend you limit how much you move the affected area for at least a certain period of time.
  • Assistive devices – We may issue or prescribe braces, casts, or other devices to help you keep weight off the repaired limb, but still allow you to be mobile.
  • Physical therapy – As you recover, it will be necessary for you to gradually ease into physical movement. To that end, physical therapy is a key part of postsurgical care. Stretching and strengthening exercises are essential for making sure your movement is as natural as possible.
  • Hygienic practices – The potential for infection is one of the risks of surgery. This risk doesn’t end once the procedure is completed, though. It is essential that you keep any vulnerable areas clean to reduce your infection risk.
  • Follow-up appointments – Don’t worry, you’re not on your own after the surgery! We will schedule follow-up appointments to monitor your progress and ensure everything is mending like it should.

Comprehensive Foot and Ankle Care

Again, we get that nobody enjoys dealing with the aftermath of a foot surgery. But if we do recommend surgery, you can take comfort in the fact we’ve been able to help many patients find relief from pain and improve foot function through surgical intervention – and we can do the same for you!

For more information about foot and ankle surgeries, or to request an appointment with Sunshein Podiatry Associates, simply give us a call at (937) 435-7477 or fill out our online form and contact us online right now.

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