4 Things You Need To Know About Foot Surgery

Health & Medical Articles

Foot surgery by a skilled podiatrist or orthopedic surgeon can help heal everything from serious fractures to painful toe conditions -- but that doesn't mean you should rush into it blindly. Any form of surgery can affect your life in ways you might not have anticipated, if only temporarily. Here are four potential issues you may want to consider and discuss with your foot doctor.

1. Surgery May Be One of Several Options

To operate or not to operate -- that is quite often the question! Many foot problems can be treated either surgically or non-surgically. For example, a mild to moderate case of bunions may be dealt with as easily as switching to looser-fitting shoes. But if extreme toe deformity makes every shoe a source of agonizing pain, it's time to consider surgery. Even then, you may have a choice of several surgical options, including:

  • Connective tissue surgery
  • Arthrodesis (surgical modification of the joint surfaces)
  • Exostectomy (removal of a painful bony protrusion)
  • Osteotomy (joint cutting and realignment)

In another example, it may make good sense to repair a difficult fracture surgically, even if the bones would knit on their own, to reduce the risk of permanent foot pain and deformity. Make sure you discuss all the possibilities with your foot doctor so you can receive the best treatment for your particular needs.

2. You Will Need Help for a While

One of the unfortunate aspects of foot surgery is that the recovery period can leave you disabled for an extended period of time. This sudden lifestyle change can create a lot of chaos for you unless you've planned for it ahead of time. You can ensure an easier and more pleasant recuperation for yourself by:

  • Arranging for a local errand-running service to do your grocery shopping and other everyday tasks
  • Finding a transportation service that caters to the physically impaired community
  • Making sure you have a comfortable armchair that will let you rest with your foot elevated
  • Renting a wheelchair, crutches, or other assistive devices as recommended by your doctor
  • Getting a friend to drive your car around the block periodically (so the battery doesn't wear down)

3. There May Be Side Effects

Even if you have the most skilled podiatrist using the most advanced surgical techniques, you might experience some common and unavoidable physical side effects from the surgery. For instance, patients who undergo an ORIF (open reduction and internal fixation) procedure to repair a shattered heel bone may end up with long-term numbness, tingling, or other sensations. This is because the surgeon must stretch certain nerves to move them out of the way during the procedure. In some cases the blood flow in the foot may be altered, which can make the foot vulnerable to swelling or cold-weather issues such as chilblains. Discuss any possible side effects with your foot doctor so you know what to expect.

4. You Might Need Physical Therapy

Tempting as it may be to put down the crutches and declare yourself finished with the healing process, you may still have one final hurdle ahead of you -- physical therapy. Physical therapy for the foot may include such supervised activities as riding a stationary bike, walking on a treadmill, and exercising with a balance board. 

You might these activities tedious, but they could make a huge difference in how completely your recover. If you allow your muscles to remain atrophied from weeks of non-use, you might end up favoring one side when you walk, leading to all kinds of alignment problems and musculoskeletal strains. Exercise also promotes full mobility by helping you avoid adhesions, lumps of scar tissue that interfere with motion.

As you can see, an impending foot surgery leaves you with plenty to think about -- but you'll be glad you made the effort. Go into your foot surgery with open eyes, and you'll be ready to recover like a champ. For more information, contact a local foot clinic, like Animas Foot & Ankle.


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