20 Truths About Life after Foot and Ankle Surgery For Those Who Need it (2023)

If you are facing or recovering from foot and ankle surgery- You landed in the perfect place. 🙂

I recently had another foot surgery. Yeah, I know. I’m all about these surgeries, aren’t I? If you read one of my previous posts about the bulging screws causing pain in my foot, then I bet you can guess what happened next…

The lovely surgeon took them out. Because they HURT. The swelling had finally gone down in my foot for these little suckers to be sticking out. So, things weren’t going to be getting any better.

Let’s review-


I’ve re-entered the post-surgery malaise of pain and elevation and icing and meds.

It shouldn’t take too long to get back up and around, so they say. I’m waiting it out with bated breath because let’s be real for a minute.

It sucks.

Seeing as I already wrote my Ten Tips for a Woman in a Leg Cast, I thought I would fancy myself in writing a bit more to encourage the poor souls who suffer through such a trial. I’ve found that piece is still reaching many, so I decided with this new refresher course I am currently taking- it was a worthy road to revisit. Life surely isn’t easy when you only have one leg to stand on.

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And when you are a mom of two kids?

Dang. It’s hard.

I learned so much the last time I was down throughout the winter months and having this fallback surely opened up new (and old) wounds that bear the burden of losing that infamous grip on control. It’s a tough terrain of relentless surrender when you are faced with limits, isn’t it?

If you have suffered this unfortunate fate, have hope that this list will someday bring you great gratitude for all you endured and eventually survived. There will come a time when you don’t remember the vivid details of your healing journey, as I did. I just hope you don’t have to be reminded with another surgery!

20 Truths about Life After Foot and Ankle Surgery

1. When the Doctor says to elevate, you darn well do it. Gravity is a beast that can’t be fought, and as the blood rushes down to your broken place- you will surely do what the doctor says.

2. The rest of your body will hurt *almost* as much as the surgical area. I’m only on the fourth day and my hip, back, and arms are trashed.

3. Crutches cause bruising… bad. Scooters are made by the hand of God.

4. Speaking of scooters– riding them resembles the bumper cars at the fair. Your furniture and paint jobs will never be the same.

5. Sleeping is glorious- if the pain lets you do it. Sleep as often as you can- both for healing purposes and even more for your mental well-being. It passes the time, and Lord knows the days and nights are long.

6. As you slowly surrender to all control, remind yourself that somehow the other people in your house will manage. It may be messy and surely not how you do it all, but things will somehow get done. And the big stuff you obsess over? It will all be there waiting for you when you are healed. Lucky you!


7. Discouragement rules. You think you will have all sorts of time on your hands to read and rest and watch movies etc. But a month goes by, and low and behold- you’ve done nothing worthwhile at all. Your days were spent doing daily functioning tasks that take an hour each, which pretty much fills the entire day. (If you are a mom with kids in the house, this may be your truth. Others may have the pleasure of *maybe* accomplishing more.)

8. You will stink. Bathing is a luxury. I’m sitting here with my hair nicely pulled back by the natural oils from my scalp. Not kidding. Sponge baths are golden. You must lower your standards for hygiene and keep the cleanliness bar low with that dreadful cringe of acceptance. Must haves are deodorant, toothbrush, and fresh panties/socks.

9. When ya gotta go, ya gotta go. Same goes for eating, bathing, dressing, and attempting to get from ANY one place to the next. Plan accordingly. Seriously. Plan AHEAD. These simple tasks are not so simple anymore.

10. If you want to cry, cry. I get it. All of us gimps get it. It’s absolutely no fun to be motionless and hurting. No fun at all. You think it will be a nice break from responsibilities, but you quickly realize that it is so much harder than any workplace you ever entered. Cry.

11. Ask for help. DO IT! I immediately dismissed my friends’ offers for meals and learned the day after surgery that I really, really needed their help. I texted my friend in a fit of sobs and told her “I retract my statement, bring food!” Bless her heart… she did.

12. And about those friends? They are gold. I pray you have such treasures in your life too. Call on them…

13. You may be a bit more emotional than usual… keep yourself in a reality check. I think we can start to dive deep into our victim stance and pity our condition- and in doing so, we can project our anger, sadness, frustrations on the ones we love. Be careful.

14. On that note, find trusted people in your life who know you well enough to allow your emotional voice to be heard. Sometimes ya just gotta let it all out. It helps.

15. Gratitude. Gratitude. Gratitude. Find it. Your perspective will shift dramatically, when you go digging in the garden of gratitude.

16. There is no comfortable position. There just isn’t. Body parts will surely fall asleep, scream at you, and twinge over and over again. Get over it. You have to. Distract yourself as best you can.

17. Pain meds are a pain, but take them anyway. They will help with the healing, despite the fact that they wreak havoc on our bodies. I hate taking them, but I stick with the inflammatory meds as per doc’s orders. If you must take pain pills, many claim they help. They just muck me up more, so I usually decline. But do what helps you most. Pain meds are offered for good reason!

18. Repeat after me: “This is temporary.” Keep saying it and remind yourself that this is truly a blip in time. I lived through it, and it IS simply that. Winter was a hard season, but spring came- and summer. And I started to limp less and hurt less too. Say it again- “This is temporary!”

19. Healing has its own timeline. It’s a precarious thing, really. You may have the end goal in mind, and then surely it plays out differently than expected. Some heal quickly, others take more time. Honor your body and how it heals. Each person has their own biological makeup and as hard as it is to accept this, you must. Be good to yourself. Pace yourself. Trust that in time, YOUR time… you will heal.

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20. When you are out in public, lighten up. It’s humiliating, isn’t it? I know. You move on those motorized scooters like an invalid, and everyone stares at you. As you knock down a display or two at the grocery store? Laugh! While you keep people stuck behind you as you hobble slowly? Make a joke about it. I remember approaching a 92 year old woman in the store on my mobile scooter as she was walking toward me. I immediately yelled out to her, “You are showing me UP, woman!” We ended up talking for several minutes and hugging each other in the end. She imparted invaluable advice that day…

“Everyone gets all their undies in a bunch about everything. It’s not worth all that stress! Just learn how to handle life’s frustrations, and move on.”

The *moving on part* is tricky…
But in time we’ll all be able to-

MOVE on.

You need help and hope while you’re healing. I can offer you both through my book.


20 Truths About Life after Foot and Ankle Surgery For Those Who Need it (5)

For more encouragement read these:

Ten Tips For A Woman In A Leg Cast

Managing The Pain: Stay off the Bridge.

Shift Your Lens Wider

A Worthy Wait.

There’s Hope for Healing.

Five Things You Need To Know When You Are Recovering From An Injury, Surgery, or Illness.

(Video) Case Review: Ultrasound of Achilles Tendinosis and Tear

How To Help Someone Who Is Hurting And Healing

Friends Are God’s Way Of Taking Care Of Us- REACH OUT!

Important Advice For Moms Facing Surgery


I recently learned about this incredible device.

Better than the scooter, you say?



20 Truths About Life after Foot and Ankle Surgery For Those Who Need it (6)

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20 Truths About Life after Foot and Ankle Surgery For Those Who Need it (7)


Will I ever walk normal after ankle surgery? ›

No walking on the foot is permitted until the wound is reviewed 2 weeks after surgery. At that time you will be allowed to walk in a walking boot. It will take about 3 months before the ankle starts to feel comfortable. Ankle swelling will generally persist for about 9-12 months.

How long does it take to fully recover from ankle surgery? ›

Usual recovery time

For most foot and ankle operations, tenderness and swelling can take 3-4 months to resolve, while for more complicated procedures, the recovery may take a full year (or more).

What happens at 8 weeks after ankle surgery? ›

Recovery from this surgery is lengthy. You will need to wear a cast or a boot for 3 to 4 weeks after surgery and be non-weight bearing. At 6-8 weeks, you will be in a walking boot with gradually increasing weight-bearing with guidance from your physical therapist.

Is Foot Surgery hard to recover from? ›

After being laid up due to a foot or ankle surgery, you're probably more than ready to get back on your feet. But when it comes to postsurgical care, you need patience. It can take up to six months for your foot or ankle to feel normal, and up to a year to completely heal.

How long does it take for nerves to heal after ankle surgery? ›

The results demonstrated that the recovery of sensory function in patients with various cutaneous nerve injuries after foot and ankle surgery required at least 6 months.

How painful is ankle surgery recovery? ›

Pain Management

Expect to be in some degree of pain following surgery. The bones in your foot and/or ankle are being manipulated in the operating room to correct the problem, which will cause pain. In general, the pain subsides after a few days to a week after surgery, depending on the type of surgery.

What is the fastest way to recover from ankle surgery? ›

The RICE method is very effective:
  1. Rest. As difficult as it may be with a busy schedule, it is vital to give your body the resting time it needs to recover.
  2. Ice. Ice is a fantastic way to reduce swelling by reducing blood flow to the affected area. ...
  3. Compression. ...
  4. Elevation.

What can you not do after ankle surgery? ›

In the days and weeks after surgery, you'll likely be told to avoid putting too much (if any) weight on your foot, avoid unnecessary physical labor, and rest as much as possible. You'll also, obviously, prefer to avoid any preventable accidents when moving around the house, or navigating up and down stairs.

What is the fastest way to recover from foot surgery? ›

Elevation is crucial to a fast recovery as it helps with pain and swelling. Elevate above the hip level. This is the most beneficial position as it helps bring blood away to reduce pressure and lessen pain. Also, use ice or ice packs soon after surgery by applying for 20 minutes on and then 20 minutes off.

Can plates and screws cause pain? ›

Painful Hardware is a possible side effect from metal screws and plates, which are often used in surgery to fix fractures, fuse joints, or stabilize bones.

How long is bed rest after ankle surgery? ›

Brief Summary: After a patient has fractured an ankle that then requires surgery, the recommendation is to remain in bed, with the operated leg elevated on pillows for 48 hours.

When do you stop wearing a walking boot? ›

Orthopedic boots protect broken bones and other injuries of the lower leg, ankle, or foot. They prevent more damage and help the area heal. Your doctor may have you use a boot for 1 to 6 weeks. How long you wear it depends on how serious your injury is.

What surgery has the longest recovery time? ›

These procedures below do take the longest to recover.
  • Liposuction (up to three months) ...
  • Tummy Tuck (2-3 months) ...
  • Facelift (two months) ...
  • Breast Reduction (two months) ...
  • Breast Augmentation (six weeks) ...
  • Rhinoplasty (six weeks)

How long do you have to wear a boot after foot surgery? ›

Orthopedic boots protect broken bones and other injuries of the lower leg, ankle, or foot. They prevent more damage and help the area heal. Your doctor may have you use a boot for 1 to 6 weeks.

Is foot surgery serious? ›

Complications of foot and ankle surgery can include infections, swelling and stiffness, and wound haematoma (bleeding). If you're generally healthy the risk of a serious complication from an operation is very small. Every possible care is taken to prevent complications, but in a few cases these do happen.

Does burning pain mean nerves are healing? ›

Is Nerve Pain Ever a Good Thing? In some cases, paresthesia is a sign of healing. Patients with nerve damage resulting from illness or injury can experience intense symptoms as the nerves regenerate. Although the pain may be severe at times, it's a temporary condition that indicates the body is on the mend.

What does it feel like when nerves are healing? ›

As your nerve recovers, the area the nerve supplies may feel quite unpleasant and tingly. This may be accompanied by an electric shock sensation at the level of the growing nerve fibres; the location of this sensation should move as the nerve heals and grows.

How do you sleep after ankle surgery? ›

Sleep on your back with a pillow between your knees. Avoid crossing your surgical leg across the middle of your body. Sleep on your non-operative side with pillows between your legs. Avoid bending your knees.

Will a broken ankle ever be the same? ›

If it's a low-to-medium grade ligament injury or a stable bone fracture, then it's highly likely that the ankle will be similar to before. With more severe ligaments and unstable fractures, there is always some difference in flexibility and appearance.

How soon can I weight bear after ankle surgery? ›

What can I expect after surgery? Weight-Bearing: You will not put weight on the affected leg for 6 to 8 weeks after surgery (non-weight-bearing).

How do I start walking again after ankle surgery? ›

Whether you have surgery or not, you'll probably need to wear a cast, splint or walking boot for about the first six weeks. Once your doctor has given you the go-ahead, you can start putting some pressure on your foot and slowly build up to walking again over a few weeks.

What to expect when walking boot comes off? ›

After weeks of wearing a cast, your foot is likely to feel a little strange when it comes off. Apart from looking a bit pale and wrinkled, your foot may also be swollen and a bit stiff. But once the cast is off, your foot will feel lighter and easier to manoeuvre.

How long does nerve block last after foot surgery? ›

Nerve blocks for leg, foot and ankle surgery can be made to last up to 24 hours. The nerve block may be part of your general anaesthetic to give you pain relief after your operation. Some operations can be done under nerve blocks alone. Sedation can be given with this to make you feel relaxed and comfortable.

What do I need after ankle surgery? ›

You often will have a bulky dressing and/or plaster splint on your operated leg, ankle, and/or foot after surgery, and your clothes must fit around your dressing and/or splint. Examples of such clothes include shorts or sweat pants without elastic bottoms.

How do you go to the bathroom after foot surgery? ›

On and off toilet - YouTube

How can I improve the circulation in my feet after surgery? ›

My Surgery Guide: Improving Leg Circulation Exercises - YouTube

How do you get rid of limp after ankle surgery? ›

Walking with Crutches and Reducing a Limp | Tim Keeley | Physio REHAB

How long does it take to walk properly after a broken ankle? ›

If you don't need surgery, you might be able to walk on your own within six to eight weeks. If your fracture did require surgery, you may get a walking cast after two weeks; four to six weeks later, you may be able to apply some weight and be moved to a cast with a walker or crutches.

How do I start walking again after ankle surgery? ›

You may be able to wear a walking boot or splint that helps provide your ankle with support throughout the healing process. A cane or walker can also help provide you with support and stability while you recover from a broken ankle and help reduce your risk of falling.

How do you walk after non weight bearing? ›


Since you are not able to bear any weight on the leg, an assistive device, such as a walker or crutches, will be necessary for you to walk. When walking with your walker or crutches, keep your affected knee bent and keep your toes off the floor.


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