Foot surgery can be tough to deal with, forcing you to sit back and take it easy for a while. Following a few key steps will keep your recovery time to a minimum so you can get back to all the things you need and love to do.
1) Stay off your foot, keep it elevated and periodically ice it.
Your doctor will tell you to avoid putting weight on your foot and rest it above the level of your heart for two reasons. First, standing on your foot places incredible stress on the tissues that are trying to heal. You might cause tearing around the incision, increase bleeding or cause the tissues to heal improperly. Secondly, some swelling is completely normal following a surgery, as the body will increase blood flow to the injured area in order to ensure white blood cells are available to speed the repair process. Gravity, however, also is working on the fluids inside your body, pulling your blood and excess water down. To minimize swelling, therefore, you must counteract gravity and get the fluids to move away from the foot. Raising the foot above heart level and resting it on some cushions or pillows achieves this goal. Start by elevating your foot 55 minutes out of the hour for the first two days and then decrease the elevation time by 5 minutes each day. As you rest, wear a compression sock to reduce your risk of developing a blood clot, and periodically massage your foot and lower leg very gently if you can to maintain healthy circulation. Ice placed on the foot further will reduce swelling, but place a towel between the ice and your skin, as direct contact with such extreme cold can damage your tissues.
2) Take care of your incision site, dressing and boot/cast.
Dressings, walking boots and casts must stay dry following foot surgery. Damp materials against your incision can breed bacteria and increase your risk of infection. Additionally, moisture compromises the stiffness of the boot or cast, meaning that it no longer can keep your foot immobilized as it should for good healing. Avoid immersing your foot in the bath, and when you take a shower, wear a waterproof cap over your foot, or create a makeshift one yourself with some tape and a plastic bag. Your foot surgeon should provide additional tips for keeping your foot dry.
3) Take your medications.
Following foot surgery, doctors typically prescribe both a painkiller and an antibiotic. The first is important to take so that you can get some good rest, which you need to heal. A painkiller also often doubles as or includes anti-inflammatory agents, which will help to keep your swelling down. An antibiotic is necessary because it decreases the chance that the incision or nearby tissues will become infected.
Your chances of a swift recovery after a foot surgery are better if you stay off your foot, elevate it, pay careful attention to the dressings and boot/cast and take your medications as instructed. Be sure to pair these steps with follow-up visits to your doctor to ensure you are healing well.