Undergoing surgery on your ankle or while at times is imperative for healing, can be traumatic for the tissues that are being operated on. While surgical technology has advanced in recent years inflammation and swelling is a normal and healthy response post-surgery and is to be expected. While this response is nothing to be worried about, it may be beneficial to mitigate the amount of swelling you go through to begin physical therapy and decrease the time it takes to resume regular activity. There are many ways to stay on top of swelling post-surgery, let’s begin.
Why Should You Attempt to Decrease Swelling After Surgery?
The weeks immediately following surgery are crucial to the recovery process, it is also the time where swelling will tend to be most aggressive. While swelling serves an important purpose to the immune response, there are risks associated for excessive swelling.
- Deep vein thrombosis
- Blood clots
Foot surgery is considered to be a low-risk surgery, however, possible DVT, or blood clot means that swelling should never go unmonitored.
What You Can Do to Reduce Swelling
Many things can be done to control and reduce swelling of the lower extremities, up next will be tips that can be a helpful director when coupled with the guidance of your healthcare provider.
Adequate Amounts of Rest Is Crucial to the Healing Process
An important foundation to a successful recovery is ensuring that you get enough rest. The body naturally releases hormones that promote healing during sleep. By securing 8 hours of restful sleep per night you increase the effectiveness of your body’s natural recovery systems. While not the only thing you should do to reduce swelling, never underestimate the power of a good night’s sleep.
Elevate the Foot or Ankle
Veins rely on a system called the “Manual Muscle Pump” and a series of one-way valves to return blood to the heart from the lower extremities while working against gravity. Do what you can to help your body get that blood back to the heart for circulation. Elevation of the affected area can be a huge help when it comes to swelling reduction.
Ice Down the Foot or Ankle Regularly
Applying ice packs to the affected area is known as a modality called “Cryotherapy.” This method relies on using what is called “Vasoconstriction” the constricting of the blood vessels as ice is applied to them, to help push fluid, and blood back into circulation.
Your physician may recommend you apply a cold compress to the affected area multiple times throughout the day, always be sure to leave a one-hour gap of time between cold compress treatment. Cryotherapy is most effective on acute injuries, meaning the first few days after surgery. It is important to note you should also avoid using hot compresses as it may unintentionally increase swelling.
Be Sure to Heed the Precaution Set By Your Doctor
If prior to your surgery, you have grown accustomed to an active or athletic lifestyle you may find the recovery process and exercises associated with it too simple at first. However, your doctor will assign precautions to prevent reinjury, jeopardizing the surgery, and limit swelling, giving tissue time to heal naturally. If you find yourself unable to keep still, ask your doctor or physical therapist what exercises you can do on your own at home. Ankle Pumps are a commonly prescribed exercise for those who are chomping at the bit to get back to activity.
Use Compression Socks for Severe Swelling
Compression stockings or compression socks may be something that your physician advises you to wear post-surgery. However, if not recommended by your physician, ask before wearing them, as they may have had a reason for not advising you to do so. These can help supplement the “Manual Muscle Pump” mentioned earlier in this article, and aid in decreasing swelling.
Regularly Take Your Prescribed Medications
Often after surgery your physician will prescribe anti-inflammatory and pain medications, take these as prescribed. If you are going to go the over-the-counter route, be sure to advise your doctor of any and all medications that you are taking to avoid any potential negative complications.
Wear Relaxed Fit Clothing
Avoid wearing overly tight clothing around the affected area, for example, tight fitting pants, socks, leggings, etc. The exception to this would be if your doctor recommends that you wear compression socks/stockings.
Avoid Smoking or Consuming Alcohol After Foot or Ankle Surgery
Smoking and alcohol both negatively impact circulation, do what you can to avoid these after surgery to avoid any potential negative side effects. Also, do not consume alcohol while on prescribed medications where it is contraindicated.
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