Recovering from Podiatric Surgery
Getting Back on Your Feet after Podiatric Surgery
Podiatric surgery can greatly improve patients’ quality of life, relieving chronic pain and improving mobility. Foot surgery will keep you off your feet for a time, and during recovery, care will have to be taken to avoid disturbing surgical wounds or reducing the effectiveness of the surgery. Compliance with your foot specialist’s orders and a commitment to foot care will help patients quickly get back on their feet and enjoy the benefits of podiatric surgery.
About 75 percent of Americans will encounter foot problems at some point in their lives. Many of these problems are temporary and may resolve on their own, while others are more serious and can cause chronic pain or mobility problems. Older people tend to have foot problems requiring a podiatrist’s help more often than the general population.
Many people with long-running foot problems do nothing about them, mistakenly reasoning that foot pain is normal. The truth is that many causes of foot pain are easily treatable, often without surgery.
Foot pain can greatly impact patients’ quality of life. In a recent survey by the American Podiatric Medical Association, about half of all adults said that foot pain interferes with their activities. More than 80 percent of survey respondents who say they suffer from regular foot pain said foot pain interferes with their daily activities. The most common complaints were that foot pain interfered with walking or standing for extended periods. It also had a discouraging effect on exercising. By seeing a foot specialist and obtaining treatment, patients can stop foot pain from impacting their daily lives and restricting their activities.
Common Foot Problems Requiring Surgery
According to the Florida Podiatric Medical Association, podiatric physicians tend to about 42 million patient visits per year. Of those, about 20 percent will involve surgical procedures. Ten percent of those will involve surgery affecting bones, muscles, tendons, or joints.
There are a variety of ailments that podiatric physicians will need to treat surgically. Some of the most common include:
- Bunions – Bunions are among the most common causes of podiatric surgery. Bunions are bony lumps that occur at the base of the big toe. A large sac of fluid called a bursa may also form over the lump, causing further pain and inflammation. Bunionectomies are often performed to remove bunions. There are a variety of methods for performing a bunionectomy. Your foot surgeon will choose the most appropriate one.
- Hammertoes – Crooked or deviated toes are referred to as hammertoes. The condition is usually caused by muscle imbalance, but wearing ill-fitting shoes can also contribute to the problem. Patients typically experience pain and swelling in toes affected by the condition. In many cases, hammertoes can be treated non-surgically, but in some cases, surgery is necessary. Hammertoe surgery may involve removing small portions of bone from the affected joint or fusing joints together.
- Neuromas – Neuroma is a condition characterized by painful swelling of a nerve in the patient’s heel or the ball of his or her foot. Symptoms typically include burning, tingling or numbness in the toes, and a popping sensation when the patient walks. Surgical options include removal of the nerve or detaching the nerve from surrounding soft tissue.
- Ingrown toenails – Occasionally, the corner of a patient’s toenail will grow into the skin, resulting in severe pain and inflammation. Tight-fitting shoes can contribute to the situation, as can toenails that have been cut too short. Ingrown toenails can go deep and develop infection. Surgical extraction of the toenail is occasionally necessary. A common procedure to treat chronic ingrown toenails involves removing the ingrown side of the nail to the cuticle, then treating the base of the nail with a chemical to inhibit regrowth of the ingrown portion of the nail.
- Warts – Plantar warts are non-cancerous growths that appear on the skin of the foot. They can cause discomfort to patients. Plantar warts can easily be removed via freezing, laser surgery, and a variety of other methods.
Recovering From Foot Surgery
To properly recover from foot surgery, patients need to follow their physicians’ advice concerning rest and care. Following your foot doctor’s advice will speed up the recovery process and help deter infection or re-injury.
Some common best practices for foot surgery aftercare:
- Rest – Simply staying off your feet for the time recommended by your foot doctor will help speed your recovery. It can be tough, but taking it easy for a few days can actually help get you back on your feet quicker than pushing yourself too hard.
- Ice – For pain and swelling, ice packs, frozen peas, or other cold compresses work great. Apply the compress for 30 minutes and then take it off for 30 more minutes before repeating. Be sure to use a cloth as a buffer between the ice and your skin to avoid discomfort.
- Elevation – Keeping your foot elevated can help reduce swelling after surgery. Keeping your foot above hip level will reduce blood flow and pressure to the area. Patients recovering from foot surgery should keep the foot elevated when seated or lying down for optimal results.
- Compression – Pressure on the affected area can reduce pain and the chance of blood clots forming after certain procedures. Your doctor will advise whether compression is right for you and provide wraps and braces.
- Medication – Be sure to take medication your doctor prescribes for pain and to fight off infection. Taking medication as directed will help ensure a safe, speedy recovery.
- Recommended exercises – Physical therapy can greatly help speed recovery and aid in greater functional use of the foot. Patients should talk to their podiatrist about recommended exercises and follow instructions to the letter.
Proper foot care, including visits to foot specialists like Dr. Sean Ravaei, can help ensure that patients detect and treat foot problems that can lead to mobility issues. This is especially important to older adults. Regular foot care can also help in the early detection and treatment of other ailments. Problems with the feet can often be a warning sign of other health issues. Early symptoms of arthritis, nerve problems, circulatory issues, and diabetes often manifest first in the feet.
By visiting a podiatrist, obtaining needed treatment, and following good aftercare practices, patients can quickly recover from foot surgery and begin enjoying the benefits of less pain and greater mobility.