When some people consider foot or ankle surgery, their first concern is usually about the procedure itself. However, for a patient, that’s really one of the easier parts. It’s mainly in the hands of the surgeon, and we are trained to handle these procedures well!
The part that is more under the patient’s control is recovery time following a surgery, and that can be more of a challenge than you might expect. That is especially true when a foot or ankle procedure means a temporary limitation on your movement—and some likely discomfort when you try.
Taking care of yourself after foot surgery is an essential part of ensuring optimal results. Give your body every opportunity possible to heal properly, and the risk of potential complications is significantly reduced.
But recovery from surgery also requires a good mental approach as well. If some post-operative downtime is in your future, here are some good guidelines for making the experience as easy and effective for you as possible.
Follow Any Specific Instructions First
Every foot or ankle procedure is different, and the needs of every patient are different. One approach to a post-surgical recovery will very rarely be the exact same as another.
What this means is that, while we will provide some general tips here, the best actions you can take are those recommended specifically to you by your surgeon for post-op recovery. In fact, if any of the recommendations below go against the instructions given to you specifically by us or whomever else your surgeon may be, disregard them.
Make Some Preparations Beforehand
Anticipating some of your post-surgery needs and addressing them before you even go in for surgery can help make your experience that much better when the time comes. Consider whether you may have the following needs:
- Your home to be cleaned up to make it as easy as possible to move through the house when you may need to.
- Items and areas to be set up so you do not have to move whenever possible. This might include setting up a bed area on the first floor if you usually sleep on the second.
- Having enough food (whether pre-prepared meals, meals brought to you, or easily made meals) to get you through the initial period of inactivity.
- Making sure you have someone to drive you home from surgery and help you into your home, if necessary.
- Wherever you plan to sit in a vehicle on the way home, making sure that the seat is set fully back to give you ample room to swing your foot and leg into the vehicle.
- Having a backlog of books, movies, and other pursuits to occupy your time. Really, this one is just as important!
There may be other factors to consider, of course. If you have any questions about what you might potentially need, please don’t hesitate to ask!
Stay Resting, Stay Cool
In most cases, rest is going to be paramount to your recovery—especially during the first several days or couple weeks.
This means staying off the foot or ankle that has been operated on as much as possible. Keeping the area elevated (if recommended) will also tend to help with pain and inflammation by reducing pressure.
Applying ice to the area in the day or two following surgery can be especially effective at reducing swelling and pain. Apply for no more than 20 minutes at a time, and then spend at least 20 minutes with the ice away from the area. Additionally, never apply ice or cold packs directly to your skin, as this may cause damage. Wrap in a thin towel, and remove the source of cold if it is causing you pain.
While there may be some temptation to treat your post-op time as a holiday where you eat ice cream every day, a proper diet will help you feel a lot better. Make sure you’re getting vitamins, minerals, proteins, and healthy fats—all of which will give your body what it needs during its recovery and rebuilding process. This can come from lean meats, leafy greens, fruits, vegetables, supplements, and other healthy items you like and are cleared to eat.
Another, often less-considered part of eating well during surgery recovery is keeping yourself regular. While it is common to not have a bowel movement a day (or even two) after surgery, going beyond that can be problematic. Help combat this by drinking plenty of water or low-calorie fluids—at least eight glasses per day—and maintaining your fiber intake with vegetables, bran, lentils, fruit, and other appropriate foods.
Care for the Surgical Site
Whether you can get the area of your surgery wet or not often depends on the situation and how far into recovery you are. We will let you know when you can wash your foot and the surgical area in the shower.
In the meantime, please do your best to keep the area clean and dry to reduce the chances of infection. This also means keeping any dressings you have dry and unsoiled. Do not apply any cream or lotions to the area unless directed to do so.
Expert Help Before, During, and After Surgery
If foot or ankle surgery is in your future, do not go in without the full confidence that comes from having trusted experts by your side!
Our doctors here at Southern Oregon Foot & Ankle will guide you through the entire process, answering any questions you may have along the way and following up to ensure recovery runs smoothly.
Give our Medford office a call at (541) 776-3338 to schedule an appointment with us. If you prefer to contact us electronically, simply fill out our online contact form and a member of our office will reach out to you.