If you have been told that you will need surgery to repair your foot or your ankle, you might feel overwhelmed by all of the scheduled procedures and the adjustments you will need to make to your life.
We will not sugar-coat anything: Orthopedic surgery and podiatric surgery are tough, and ankle surgery recovery takes hard work. But this is a well-worn path, and in our experience there is a precise way to go about preparing for surgery and recovery. It’s just a process, and you can check it off point by point.
We have broken our guide down into four sections: The first touches on what to do before surgery, and the other three deal with different physical and mental aspects of recovery. The before-surgery section functions like a set of checklists, so you can actually print off that section and check off each point as you get prepared. The other three sections contain information that will become more and less relevant during different phases of your recovery, so keep that information accessible.
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Patients with the fastest recovery times tend to be those who plan for their surgeries well in advance.
Planning sounds like a chore, especially if you feel as though your impending procedure is hanging over you like a cloud, but doing the following work ahead of time, while you are still mobile, will save you so many headaches during your ankle surgery recovery period. Ultimately, you will struggle less, recover faster and find it easier to keep a positive mindset while you heal.
The keys to a successful recovery are rest and, above all else, keeping weight off your foot or ankle as it heals.
This section will show you specifically what you can do to make sure your recovery goes well. We are only concerned here with post-operative treatment. In the subsequent sections, we will show you what you can do to make this ankle surgery recovery process easier on yourself.
With an incision that needs time to heal, infection can set in if you don’t take care of yourself. If you have been prescribed an antibiotic, take it according to the prescription.
Call your doctor’s office if you notice any of the following:
Opioid pain relievers include morphine, codeine and oxycodone, among others. Follow your doctor’s directions exactly if you are given such pain relievers. Some notes on opioid pain relievers:
Many patients find they have trouble moving their bowels when taking opioid pain relievers. Here are some things you can do to avoid constipation:
Complications from circulation can arise during your first weeks of recovery. Contact your doctor if you notice any of the following:
Most likely, your doctor will want to make an appointment with you for intervals of 2 weeks, 6 weeks and 12 weeks post-surgery. Use this time to address any issues and give feedback about what you are experiencing.
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For any of us, a post-surgery recovery period would interrupt our normal rhythms, and the healthy habits we’ve tried to maintain can fall by the wayside without a little vigilance. However, maintaining or building new healthy habits will go a long way to making recovery successful.
This is important to avoiding weight gain while you are off your feet. Your recovery period is going to be fairly sedentary, and it can be tempting to over-indulge on comfort foods during this time.
Here is how to avoid those pitfalls and stay physically healthy during your ankle surgery recovery.
Raise your protein intake. You need roughly 0.5 grams of protein per pound you weight. A 200-pound person needs about 100 grams of protein every day to fuel the healing process. Healthy sources of protein include eggs, fish, nuts and lentils. Here is an example of a protein-rich meal plan for a 170-pound adult (source):
You will need the following nutrients, which come naturally from a healthy diet of whole foods or can come from supplements:
Track your calorie intake. Most women need 1200 calories per day when they do no exercise, and most men need 1500 on such days. Start from there, and raise your caloric intake levels as you begin to exercise more.
The best foods you can eat require minimal preparation. This includes raw fruits and vegetables as well as nuts.
Limit your intake of sugar and grains:
Finally, avoid making bread or rice a major component in any meal.
Having to spend multiple weeks in recovery mode can become boring and demotivating, particularly for active people. But it doesn’t have to be. The trick is to simply approach the healing process with the right mindset.
This mindset has an offensive and a defensive component: You will need to actively try to fill your time with enriching or entertaining experiences, and you will also need to be mindful of certain pitfalls or bad habits that are easy to slip into.
Chicago’s Rush Medical Center has some pretty inspiring stories from patients who have undergone orthopedic procedures. Let their stories demonstrate the power of having the right mindset going into surgery:
Post-surgery depression is a very real and very serious problem, and it is complicated by the fact that doctors often fail to recognize it for what it is. Harvard Magazine covered this very problem 14 years ago.
The best way to deal with post-surgery depression at the moment seems to be anticipating it, and dealing with it head on before it actually becomes a problem. Before your surgery, speak with your doctor about options for treating potential post-surgery depression because you cannot know in advance whether it will become a complication during your recovery period.
While post-surgery depression strikes everyone differently, here are some common symptoms:
Writer Lynn Beisner at Role Reboot touches on an even subtler way she has noticed post-surgery depression creep in on her: She says on post-op Day 2 or 3, a spike of pain sets in, and a wave of panic accompanies that pain, telling her she should never have consented to the surgery, and that the pain will never go away. Beisner says the worst part is she never actually feels depressed, at least in a classical sense, after surgery.
Here is a three-step process to keep in mind so you can be prepared for any signs of post-surgery depression: