Proper ankle fusion surgery rehabilitation can help a patient regain the use of his leg, as it might initially be hard for the patient to move around in a normal fashion. The body needs to get used to the changes, and the initial pain needs to subside gradually.
Some Tips for Ankle Surgery Rehabilitation
Ankle Surgery Rehabilitation #1 – Plaster Casts and Fixators
As a long term ankle surgery rehabilitation measure, once a patient is done with his ankle joint surgery, his ankle will most likely be placed in a plaster cast or in an external fixator. This plaster cast is generally removed in about two to three weeks only to be replaced by a short leg cast. Doctors normally give strict orders not to apply any pressure on the injured foot whatsoever.
This is because even the slightest pressure applied when the bones are still fusing might damage the efforts of the entire operation. This is to be maintained for about 10 weeks to 12 weeks. For the first few days, the patient should keep his injured foot above the level of his heart to avoid any throbbing and swelling. The patient can also use pillows to keep the foot propped up for effective ankle injury rehab.
Once the patient is back home, the same set of instructions are to be strictly followed, and any medication that is prescribed must be taken in a timely manner to avoid any infections, and for successful ankle surgery rehab.
Ankle Surgery Rehabilitation #2 – The Shift to Braces and Crutches
After about 10 weeks, the cast will be removed and an ankle brace will take its place. The surgeon will setup frequent appointments to make sure that the fusion is done correctly and the wound is healing by itself. The patient will be in need of crutches for the first two or three months after the operation.
Some force and weight can be applied over the injured foot gradually as the bones begin to fuse completely, i.e. as the fusion gets stronger. This can be very frustrating and it would be better to hire a physical therapist for help during this process. A physical therapist can make sure that the patient’s walk is gradually smoothened and without a pronounced limp.
Ankle Surgery Rehabilitation #3 – Special Shoes Post Surgery
Once the bones are completely fused and the wound is healed, the patient will be given a special shoe which will help make walking easier. This shoe has an insert known as ‘SACH foot’ which helps the patient walk normally, without any strain on his foot.
This is done through the help of a heel cushion which absorbs the weight applied and it rolls forward more smoothly so that each step is slow and normal. Another shoe termed as the rocker sole is also used, and this is a modification of the same type. It has a rounded sole rather than a flat sole which is more typical of these special shoes. This provides the foot with more comfort while taking a step.
Running may not be an option after the ankle fusion, but if the operation is deemed a success then the walking style will be as normal as possible with time.
As is the case with almost all medical procedures, different individuals experience different rates of healing and results during the ankle surgery rehabilitation phase. Once the first year is over, the patient has to go for half yearly checkups initially and the surgeon will continue to check if the fusion remains intact using X ray scans. If everything continues to be fine, then annual checkups will be more than sufficient. The patient can return to his normal state of affairs but heavy manual labor, especially the kind that puts too much stress on the ankles should be avoided.