If you’ve injured your ankle playing sports, exercising or because of an accident, you may need surgery. You will need to be diligent in following your doctor’s instructions to ensure a full recovery. Gradually putting weight back on your ankle is essential to regather strength at a healthy pace.
Learn more about weight-bearing restrictions and what to expect after an ankle operation.
What Are Weight-Bearing Restrictions?
If you have surgery after an ankle injury, your doctor will provide instructions for you to follow as you recover. Weight-bearing restrictions are part of these instructions — keeping weight off the affected ankle is vital to the recovery process.
Weight-bearing restrictions explain and control the amount of weight your ankle can safely bear while it heals. Depending on the severity of your injury, you may not be able to put any weight on your ankle after surgery. As you heal, you’ll be able to put more and more weight on your ankle until you’re fully recovered. You will progress through weight-bearing restrictions at a prescribed pace and with proper care.
The different types of weight-bearing restrictions are detailed below.
The Importance of Following Weight-Bearing Restrictions After Ankle Surgery
It’s crucial that you follow weight-bearing restrictions after ankle surgery to give your time to heal. Weight-bearing restrictions help you avoid further injuring your ankle or reversing any progress done during the procedure.
Types of Weight-Bearing Restrictions
You will progress through different weight-bearing restrictions as your ankle heals. From non-weight-bearing to full weight-bearing, below are the restrictions in detail.
A non-weight-bearing restriction means you shouldn’t place any weight on your ankle joint. These are the most limiting restrictions, and you will receive an assistive device to help you move around. Depending on the severity of your injury, you may use a wheelchair, walker or crutches.
With a non-weight-bearing order, even the slightest amount of weight on the ankle can cause damage. When using assistive equipment, work on keeping the affected leg bent at the knee so that your toes do not reach the ground.
Toe-Touch Weight-Bearing Restrictions
A toe-touch weight-bearing order means that only the toes of the injured ankle should touch the ground and only to help you keep your balance. As with a non-weight-bearing order, you will need to use assistive equipment while your ankle continues to heal.
Partial Weight-Bearing Restrictions
A partial weight-bearing restriction allows you to place half of your body weight on the injured ankle. Use a scale to determine how much pressure equals half of your weight.
Weigh yourself first, then divide the number in half. Step off the scale and let it zero out. Next, place only your injured foot on the scale. Apply enough pressure to equal half of your body weight, and try to mimic that amount of pressure as you work through the partial weight-bearing stage. You can continue using the scale until you understand the right level of weight to bear.
Full Weight-Bearing Orders
A full weight-bearing order means that you can place all of your weight on your ankle following surgery. Assistive equipment is not required, and you may resume normal daily activities.
Full weight-bearing orders are typically rare following ankle surgery. Even if you have no weight-bearing restrictions, you may benefit from crutches or a cane for a bit of time if normal walking doesn’t feel quite right. Your doctor can help you make the correct determination.
After Your Ankle Operation
Below are some important instructions to follow as you heal from surgery.
Adhere to Your Weight Progression Timeline
You will progress through weight-bearing restrictions in phases. Your doctor will consider your injury and healing status to create a weight-bearing timeline. Keep in mind that it’s normal to experience slight pain and swelling between stages but not a significant increase in pain. If you experience substantial pain, you should return to the previous weight-bearing level and remain there until the pain subsides.
Follow At-Home Guidelines
Here are a few general guidelines to follow at home:
- Rest and elevate the affected leg.
- Take pain medication as directed.
- Keep your dressing or cast dry.
- Bathe at the sink or in the shower using a waterproof bag on your ankle.
- Eat a nutritious diet with plenty of protein, fruits and vegetables to promote healing.
Be Aware of Signs and Symptoms
Contact your doctor if you experience the following symptoms:
- Intense pain that does not subside with elevation, ice and medication
- A fever higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit
- Tenderness in the groin
- Severe pain in the calf, trouble breathing or chest pain
Attend Your First Return Visit
Your doctor will remove your cast or bandage on your first follow-up visit. Your foot and ankle will likely look nothing like they will once they fully heal. You may see swelling and bruising. Your doctor will examine your foot, answer questions and develop a physical therapy plan to rehabilitate your ankle.
Remember Average Recovery Times
The time it takes to recover from ankle surgery depends on many factors, including how extensive the surgery was, your age, overall health and how closely you follow your doctor’s instructions. For many ankle surgeries, pain and swelling can take three to four months to resolve. For more complex surgeries, recovery may take up to a year.
Determine the Right Time to Return to Work
How soon you return to work depends on your job and what you typically do in a day. For instance, if you work in an office or sit for long periods, you will be able to return to work sooner than if you have a physically demanding job or drive for a living. Your doctor will help you determine the appropriate time to return to work.
Trust Your Ankle Injury to Dr. Mufaddal Gombera
If you have ankle surgery, your doctor will provide you with instructions to follow during your recovery. Weight-bearing restrictions are a necessary part of healing as they allow you to slowly return to regular activity.
Doctor Mufaddal Gombera is a board-certified, highly trained orthopedic surgeon specializing in treating shoulder, hip, knee and ankle injuries. He uses the latest advanced treatments and minimally invasive techniques to deliver expert care to patients.
Dr. Gombera strives to return his patients to an active and fulfilling lifestyle. He treats teenagers, athletes, young adults, middle-aged adults and the elderly in the Houston area. Dr. Gombera also treats patients from out of town, out of state and even abroad. His staff is happy to accommodate patients no matter where they’re from.
If you have an injury in your shoulder, hip, knee or ankle, contact Dr. Gombera’s office today for more information or to book an appointment.