Total ankle replacement is a pretty extensive procedure. It can, however, be the best way to remedy a badly injured or severely arthritic ankle. The hardest part of the process, for most patients, is recovering from the surgery. It will be about six months before you feel mostly back to normal, but there are some things you can do during recovery to ease your pain, speed your healing, and generally improve your quality of life.
1. Let someone else care for you.
As determined as you might be to fight through this and recover on your own, it is really important not to do too much. Your body needs to rest so that it can focus its efforts and resources on healing your ankle. Plan ahead to have a friend or family member stay with you and care for you. If they can be there for an entire week, that's great. If they are able to come back and do some other things for you, like cooking and cleaning, for a few more weeks, that's even better. It will help keep you from over-taxing your ankle.
2. Get straight into physical therapy.
Usually, your surgeon will tell you to take it easy at home for a week or two, and then when you're feeling ready (sometime between 2 and 4 weeks post-surgery) to head to physical therapy. Do not delay in seeking physical therapy. Although it can be tough and painful, it really is the key to healing up and restoring your range of motion. Make an appointment as soon as your doctor permits it, and prioritize attending your appointments from that point on.
3. Ice, Ice, Ice
As you recover, you will be told to apply ice to your ankle to ease the pain. But it's important to understand that the ice is not just for pain relief. It also helps alleviate inflammation, which can speed up healing. Ice your ankle several times per day, and keep doing this even when your ankle is not overly swollen. You may be able to lease an ice machine from your surgeon's office. This machine circulates cold water through a sleeve you place around your ankle, so you don't have to keep applying ice packs.
Recovering from ankle replacement surgery can be painful and challenging, but once you are healed, you will enjoy being able to walk on your new ankle without pain.
If you're considering getting an ankle replacement, find a nearby podiatrist that can help you come up with a treatment plan.