How to Recover from Foot Surgery
If you’ve just had foot surgery, the hard work is only half over.
While the skill of your surgeon is probably the single most important component of a successful procedure, how you recover and rehab from your operation is also critical.
You and your doctor are a team! You both have work to do if you want the best possible outcome.
So, let’s say you’ve got a foot or ankle surgery coming up on the calendar. What do you need to do—before and after the operation—to make sure your recovery goes as smoothly as possible?
Although each surgery is a little bit different, your basic roadmap is below.
Clear Your Calendar
Depending on the extent of your surgery, you may require several days off your feet with no weight bearing allowed on the affected foot, and no driving. If you have paid time off at work, now is the time to use it!
Beyond that, there will likely be at least a few more weeks where you can engage in some light activity but will still need to be careful. You might be able to return to work, but with some accommodations meant to protect your foot as it heals.
When we discuss your surgery at your consultation, we’ll go over the expected timetables for recovery, so you can plan your schedule accordingly.
Coordinate the Help You Need
During your recovery, especially in the first few days, you may have a hard time with basic tasks around the house. More importantly, you need to be getting as much rest as possible.
It is extremely beneficial to have a trusted loved one—spouse, parent, child, friend, etc.—around to care for you in the first couple of days. If others can help you with those basic tasks, it means you don’t have to overexert yourself or put yourself at unnecessary risk.
It doesn’t need to be the same person every day, of course; it may be easier on both you and your caregivers to set a schedule so nobody has to give up several days of hard-earned vacation time!
Optimize Your Home
During surgery recovery, you aren’t going to be as mobile as you’d like to be. Narrow hallways, stairs, and clutter can represent severe hazards that might cause you to trip or re-injure your foot. Before your surgery, make your home as recovery-friendly as possible.
- If your bedroom is upstairs, set up a sleeping area on the main floor to cut down on trips up and down the stairs.
- Move daily essentials like clothing, food, dishware, toiletries, etc. to easy-to-reach locations. You don’t want to have to bend, reach, or stretch to far to access them if you can avoid it.
- Give your home a thorough de-cluttering. Remove obstacles like cords and low-lying furniture.
- Install some night lights so you can see clearly if you have to get up at night.
- Consider installing grab bars and mats in the bathroom to help you get around safely.
The more you can avoid running errands or spending a long time on daily tasks, the better—especially in the first couple of weeks after your surgery.
Make sure you stock up on basic supplies and consumables beforehand—foot, toilet paper and paper towels, medications, etc. We’d also recommend you pre-cook some meals that will be easy to heat and serve, so you aren’t trying to run around the kitchen chopping vegetables and measuring spices on a broken foot!
You should also “stock up” on some ways to keep yourself busy or entertained during your recovery, too! Go to the library before your surgery and check out some books you’ve been meaning to read or films you’ve always wanted to watch. Pick out some puzzles, games, or crafts you’ve been meaning to tackle.
Keeping your brain engaged during your downtime isn’t just a good idea for your sanity—it’s good for your overall health and wellbeing!
Follow All Your Post-Operative Instructions to the Letter!
We will always give you a detailed breakdown of recovery expectations and guidelines to follow, including when you can engage in certain activities and how to perform your rehabilitation exercises.
We can’t stress this enough: these guidelines are for your protection. And we wouldn’t ask you to do something that we didn’t think was necessary.
It is extremely important to follow your post-op instructions to the letter, even if you think you’re feeling good or ready for a new challenge. Don’t start new activities before we give you a clear go-ahead. Your symptoms may recede, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s safe to put pressure on your feet again!
Really, when it comes down to it, failure to follow post-op instructions is by far the most common cause of poor results after surgery.
Treat Your Body Right
Do your best to eat healthy meals at regular intervals during your recovery.
Of course, you should try to do this all the time—not just after a foot surgery. But eating right is especially important when your body is trying to heal itself from an invasive surgery.
We also encourage you to avoid alcohol during your recovery, and if you’re a smoker, quit as long as possible before and during (and after) your surgery and recovery. Smoking and alcohol abuse can reduce your circulation and slow the pace of wound healing.
We do our best to make sure you are as prepared as you can possibly be before, during, and after your surgery. However, you may still have questions or concerns that arise in the days and weeks that follow.
Please, never hesitate to call our office and ask if something is on your mind or bothering you. We have one goal—to make sure you get better as quickly and safely as possible. We work hard to help you get there, and that includes being available to talk to you when questions arise.
For first-class surgical care—including not only the procedure itself, but also the preparation and recovery—take a step forward with the Wisconsin Foot Center. You can schedule an appointment at our Hales Corners, WI office at (414) 425-8400.
"Feel Good Feet: A User's Guide to Foot & Ankle Health"