Foot or ankle surgery can be an intimidating procedure for patients. Through our orthopedic surgeons always try the least invasive treatment option first, if surgery is the only option, there are some things you should know in order to speed along your recovery. Like any surgery, foot surgery is all about being prepared before going into the operating room. Knowing what to expect can help you be better prepared after surgery and have a better post-operative experience.
What to Expect After Ankle Surgery?
Your orthopedic foot surgeon will give you instructions on what to do / not do after surgery. Make sure you listen and write these instructions down, so you remember after surgery. Having your support system aware of the dos and don’ts after surgery also helps them be prepared and better assist you.
You will work with a Physical Therapist
Most likely a day or two after surgery you will have your first physical therapy appointment. At this appointment, you will work on things like range of motion and learning exercises you can do at home to help speed up the recovery of your ankle. Your physical therapist will make sure your surgical wound is healing the way it is supposed to and rule out any signs of infections. It is crucial you go to this appointment to make sure everything is on track to a full, healthy recovery!
Part of your treatment after surgery will involve medication. You should expect your doctor to prescribe you pain medication as well as an antibiotic/aspirin to reduce the risk of infection. It is vital you take the medication exactly as prescribed. If you take your pain medication too late, it may not work as effectively as it could, leading to a painful recovery.
Physical Activity Limitations
Depending on the type of surgery you have, you will have different limitations on the amount and or type of physical activity you can do. Certain surgeries like ankle replacements or Achilles tendon repairs may have a longer rest period than arthroscopic surgery. Certain factors such as age, overall health, or weight could also make your recovery time longer. List to your doctor and do not be afraid to ask questions about what you are able to do to ensure no further injury after surgery.
Ways to Decrease Recovery Time
The best way to reduce your recovery time after surgery is to do the work before you have surgery. If your doctor encouraged you to lose weight or clean up your diet, it is for good reason. Added weight means added pressure on your joints.
Decreasing inflammation is also important before going into surgery. Certain foods have been shown to increase inflammation in the body thus causing more pain and slower recovery after surgery. Try reducing the amount of sugar, starchy carbs, and fried foods before surgery to make sure your body is prepared for what is to come.
You may be itching to get back to your routine as soon as possible, but that will not happen if you do not give your body the time it needs to recover. Some movement after surgery is good to keep the joints lubricated and to avoid stiffness but doing too much too soon can lead to more damage and your body will be unable to recover as quickly as you would like.
Vitamin C, A, and Zinc help repair tissue damage and fight injection. Taking a Zinc supplement or eating more fruits and vegetables with Vitamin C has been shown to increase wound healing, making it the perfect vitamin to increase around surgery time!
As always, make sure you are contacting your doctor with any questions regarding your ankle surgery recovery. The RICE method is always a great treatment to incorporate into your recovery, as well as all things listed above. Your physical therapist will also be a great resource and we encourage our patients to keep open communication with them as well. If you are suffering from ankle pain, you can schedule an appointment with one of our orthopedic foot and ankle specialists here.
Orthopedic Surgeons and Foot + Ankle Specialists at Elite Sports Medicine + Orthopedics
Dr. Jeffrey Willers
Dr. Brian Thomson