The number of foot and ankle procedures that people undergo is steadily increasing every year. The number of ankle fusion procedures alone has increased by over 146% over the last 10 years.
If you’ve tried several noninvasive techniques to treat your ankle pain to no avail, your doctor may recommend surgery. Depending on your injury or condition, your ankle surgery could be simple or complex, leading to vastly different recovery times. Your ankle surgery may have involved any of the following procedures:
- Ankle fusion.
- Achilles tendon repair surgery.
- Ankle replacement surgery.
- Bunion surgery.
- Ankle ligament reconstruction.
It is crucial for you to follow your doctor’s instructions throughout your recovery process. Often, your doctor will tell you to completely avoid weight-bearing activities for weeks at a time. Treatments like physical therapy can help fast-track your recovery so that you can start walking safely and confidently after your ankle surgery.
How long until you can walk after ankle surgery?
Your doctor may require you to immobilize your ankle for up to six weeks after your surgery, after which they may green-light weight-bearing activities. This means that you may have to keep your foot in a boot or wrapped in bandages to allow the swelling to decrease and your wound to heal before placing weight on it. Walking during the immobilization period of healing should be avoided.
Depending on your type of ankle surgery, however, your doctor may encourage early weight bearing, starting as soon as two weeks after your procedure; studies have shown that early weight bearing can lead to improved healing after surgery. You should speak to your doctor before deciding to try to stand or walk on your foot after ankle surgery. Your doctor will be able to assess your post-surgery progress, consider your medical history and lifestyle, and consult your post-surgery imaging tests before recommending early weight-bearing activities like walking.
Even if you are able to try to walk a few weeks after ankle surgery, you may only be able to take a couple of steps at first. This is completely normal. The tissue surrounding your ankle tissue has been weakened by surgery and needs time to strengthen and heal after surgery.
3 ways physical therapy can help you walk after ankle surgery
If you want to speed up your post-ankle surgery recovery and are set on walking on your ankle as soon as possible, physical therapy can help. During one-on-one physical therapy sessions, your physical therapist can introduce you to the following techniques to help you bear weight on your ankle as soon as it is safe:
- Strengthening exercises — While your body heals after a traumatic event such as surgery, it can be important to strengthen your tissue using gentle, low-impact exercises. Physical therapists are well versed in post-surgery rehabilitation exercises that promote healing. For example, gentle resistance used in aquatic therapy can strengthen your ankle over time, and the water can offer compression benefits to control inflammation and swelling during your exercise.
- Stretches — While strength is an important component of healing after ankle surgery, stretches are also important and can be crucial to mobility. Physical therapists can slowly build up your stretching routine so that your ankle joint’s range of motion is maximized. Stretches can also break up inflammation that causes pain and stiffness. Your physical therapist may prescribe an at-home stretching routine that coincides with strengthening exercises so that you can improve your mobility and decrease your inflammation faster.
- Soft tissue mobilization — Physical therapists have access to a variety of tools and techniques to prevent and break up scar tissue, release tension in muscles, and promote blood blow. As your ankle meets recovery milestones, your physical therapist may introduce soft tissue mobilization into your treatment plan. This may involve the Graston Technique®, which targets scar tissue and prevents it from restricting movement.
Alliance PTP is ready to help you find top-notch PT to help you walk after ankle surgery
Are you anxious to start walking after your ankle surgery? Physical therapists offer vital knowledge and practices to keep you on track with your recovery plan. At Alliance Physical Therapy Partners, we’re proudly bringing together physical therapy practices across the country to help people get the high-quality PT they need.
Want to see a physical therapist in person? We can put you in touch with an Alliance PTP partner that’s close to you and that can help you strengthen your ankle after surgery.
Not keen on in-person PT sessions or not close to an Alliance PTP partner? No worries. We also offer effective and affordable virtual physical therapy through our Agile Virtual Physical Therapy platform.
Come find help for your injury or chronic condition today!