Recovery after ankle surgery could be difficult if not planned well. While you go through your recovery, you can do plenty of things to help speed the process along.
In this article, we explore the different things that you can do to make your recovery after ankle surgery faster and more comfortable. We also review some must have things after ankle surgery. If you are in a hurry, the table below gives a quick snapshot of the top ones.
Have you recently had ankle surgery? Ankle replacement surgery is becoming very common. Between 2007 and 2012, major hospitals and trauma centers saw a little under three hundred thousand cases of foot or ankle fractures. But in the subsequent four-year period ankle fracture cases more than doubled to almost seven hundred thousand.
So what do you do if you are recovering from ankle surgery?
Re-arrange Your Home for Safety and Convenience
Re-arranging your home for safety and convenience is the first thing you should do before leaving your home for ankle surgery. You should consider getting rid of the rugs in the house and clean up messy cords. These can be significant hazards. If you must have them, make sure your rugs are wheelchair friendly and are securely attached to the floor.
You should also re-arrange the furniture in your home so that you have a clear path to the most visited areas like the bathroom, kitchen, and bedroom. It will help to re-arrange things in the bedroom or living room so that it is easy to find and reach important things when you need them.
You may also have to take care of your banking needs. You can set up an online banking account, if not done already, to make bill-payments easier.
While keeping your credit card with you serves you well, you should also withdraw enough cash so that you can transact with vendors and shop-keepers if they can’t accept cash.
It would help if you also got a backpack or the right luggage to keep things you need most frequently. These things may include phone, wallet, house keys, a water-bottle, and of course, your medicines.
It is also a good idea to make duplicates for your house keys so that your family members and friends can let themselves in without bothering you.
Post-surgery, for a few weeks, it is critical to avoid activities that will require you to have your foot dangling down for a more extended period. Therefore, you should avoid going shopping or doing other activities which may compel you to stand for a more extended period.
Crutches and Mobility Equipment for Ankle Surgery
It may be too painful for you to put any weight on your ankle and foot for the first few days post-surgery. You may use a walker or crutches to help you walk around and move short distances. It is an excellent idea to wrap the handle of your crutches with foam to make the handleless painful when you are leaning on it.
Crutches can be beneficial, but they can also be cumbersome. So, depending on your unique situation, you may also use a knee scooter, a power wheelchair, or a mobility scooter, if you are not confident of the strength of your upper body. This is a topic, you must discuss with your medical practitioner before your ankle surgery.
You can consider adding a basket to your walker or scooter, ensure that you check for stability before you do that. Otherwise, it may be a trip-hazard.
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Pain Control and Therapy for Your Ankle
Post-surgery, you may feel a lot of pain. Similar to what the dentists do when filling a cavity, surgeons and anesthesiologists also apply local or peripheral anesthesia before operating an ankle.
As it leaves your ankle numb for a few hours after the surgery, it can minimize the amount of pain you may feel and hence the pain medication you may require immediately after surgery.
To control your pain better, your surgeon may ask you to follow a combination of things. They all together make multimodal pain management an efficient approach for pain control with minimum side effects.
It involves using different pain control methods such as taking narcotic and non-narcotic medications (pharmacological) and applying non-pharmacological techniques such as ice therapy, foot elevation using a pillow, and breathing techniques.
While individual approaches to pain control work at a different point of your pain, the multimodal approach provides a cumulative effect. It also lessens or eliminates the need for strong narcotic pain medications.
Your doctor may also recommend a few weeks of physical therapy to help your ankle get back to its normal functioning. You must adhere to all the instructions and rehabilitation exercises at home between sessions to do them correctly.
Use Pillows to Keep Your Ankle Raised
After any surgery, the thing which works most of the time is adequate rest. It is beneficial to keep your foot elevated on a pillow while taking naps throughout the day. While making sure you take care of yourself to heal faster, you must listen to your body and your doctor.
Every time you are lying down on your back, you should keep your ankle elevated on pillows to prevent more swelling. It is also a good idea to keep pillows around the house. So that you can use them whenever you sit or lay down. You may also get body pillows to help you elevate your leg and make you more comfortable when you sleep overnight.
Take care of swelling
After your ankle surgery, in addition to pain, you will have swelling in the ankle. It happens because of the increased blood flow to the foot in response to the surgical injury and the decreased capacity of blood to return to the heart because of less contractions in the lower leg muscle.
While the most significant swelling occurs in the first 72 hours post-surgery, this is directly proportional to the pain. Swelling in your ankle area should gradually diminish over time, but it may take a few months to go away completely. If not managed appropriately, it can be very uncomfortable.
Particularly in the days immediately post-surgery, what helps minimize swelling is keeping your foot elevated eight to 10 inches above your body with one or two pillows under the foot.
Giving your operated ankle ice treatment can also be very helpful. Ice works by constricting the small blood vessels around the foot and ankle, thereby decreasing the area’s blood flow.
Ice packs can help reduce the swelling in your ankle and alleviate the pain. If you do not have immediate access to an ice pack, a packet of frozen vegetables will also do. You should ensure that you discuss the proper way to do ice treatment with your doctor.
Normally, you can apply ice in multiple sessions of a maximum of 15-minutes, each with 15-minutes intervals between sessions. You should avoid using ice when the foot is numb from anesthesia, as this can lead to frostbite.
It would help if you also did everything to protect your wound from getting wet. If you want to shower while you are recovering, you should keep plastic bags in the bathroom. You can put your foot in a bag and tape it before the shower. So that you do not get your bandages wet while water is dripping down your body.
Also, it is important to make sure that the shower floor is not slippery. Using a shower chair while bathing might be a good idea when you are recovering from ankle surgery. This way, you can sit and have a shower.
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Food and Medications after Ankle Surgery
Healthy and nutritious food has a tremendous effect on your recovery and healing. To expedite your recovery, you should eliminate junk foods. Junk food only has a lot of calories, it is woefully inadequate when it comes to the right nutrients that your body needs, leading to nutritional deficiencies.
Next, drinking plenty of water to stay hydrated. It ensures that the nutrients have the right impact on your operated ankle during recovery. You should drink 2-3 liters of water every day.
Your recovery will be faster if you consume whole foods and high-protein items such as whole grains, fruits, beans, nuts, seeds, and veggies. Also, eating high-fiber foods, such as pears, berries, broccoli, avocado, bananas, lentils, beans, and artichoke, help mitigate post-surgery constipation, which can be very uncomfortable.
You may also search for your local area restaurants that can deliver food to your home. It is a good idea to keep their numbers handy, should you feel the need.
Medication. In addition to pain control drugs, your doctor may also prescribe antibiotics to ensure you do not get an infection. We can’t emphasize it enough that you must follow the directions from your doctor concerning your medication regime and physical therapy.
Anti-inflammatory pain medication (ex. Advil, Ibuprofen, Aleve, and more) will help to manage post-operative foot pain. But these can have significant side effects.
Your doctor may also prescribe you narcotic pain medication such as Vicoden after surgery. It can be beneficial at controlling the pain for 4-6 hours.
However, because narcotic addiction has become a significant issue in our society, your surgeon shall only prescribe a small number of pain pills. You should also avoid consuming them after 2-3 days unless you feel the need.
You must take only prescribed doses of your pain medication to stay ahead of severe pain. If you feel that you have too many pills to remember taking at the right time, in the correct order, consider getting yourself a pillbox with an alarm.
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Relax and Entertain Yourself
For much of your time after ankle surgery, you will be non-active physically with restricted mobility. So, having some entertainment will help you pass your time.
You may get some books or magazines from a local library or a bookstore if you love to read. Doing crosswords and having adult coloring books can also be a great distraction from your pain.
Also, it may be an excellent time to use your streaming subscription. Your favorite series and movies are excellent ways to escape from your pain and become part of someone else’s story.
Besides video streaming and movies, you may also want to load up your device with your favorite numbers. On the other hand, nowadays, music streaming services like Spotify or Pandora can get you access to unlimited music without planning and downloading the songs to your devices.
Seek Social Assistance
You will need help when you go home after your surgery. It may be in household chores such as making meals as well as in personal activities such as showering or getting dressed.
Also, you may request a friend to drive you to your follow-up appointments. However, if nobody is available, you should learn how to hire a taxi using your phone or an app. It is very crucial if you are on pain medications.
It is a good idea to have your close family members and friends help you recover. They can help you with your children or care for your pets.
As you will have to see several different professionals such as your surgeon, therapist, physician post-surgery, you may seek help to ensure all those appointments are set-up before leaving the hospital. You may change them later if required.
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Returning to Work after Ankle Surgery
While planning your return to work, take your time. Of course, it will depend on the type of surgery you had, as well as the kind of job you have. It is not only your physical mobility restrictions but also the psychological effect of medications that may influence your ability to work professionally.
Your pain medications will influence your thinking and analytical abilities, so you should consider avoiding work at least until you are off narcotic pain medications.
Ankle surgery comes with significant mobility restrictions and the psychological effects of medications. While recovery can take a few months, the set of things mentioned in this article can help you heal and recover faster and get back to your everyday life.