ANKLE SURGERY REHABILITATION
Ankle surgery is performed for several reasons, including: to stabilize a severe ankle fracture, for ankle ligament reconstruction or to replace an ankle joint destroyed by osteoarthritis. After these procedures, you may need ankle surgery rehabilitation. Your physical therapist will begin with an interview and assessment of your post-operative ankle and discuss any special requirements you might have and your goals for rehabilitation. If you do high-impact activities such as running or skiing, you will need a more intensive course of rehabilitation.
THE FUNDAMENTALS OF ANKLE REHABILITATION
Therapy to reduce swelling
Most ankle surgery patients will experience a fair amount of swelling which impedes ankle flexibility and range of motion. Your therapist will be diligent in instructing about icing during your therapy, particularly after exercise. It’s likely that your ankle will need icing for up to four months after your surgery.
To improve your flexibility, your physical therapist may use exercises such as active movement and stretching. Simple movements such as rotating the ankle and flexing it in all directions can also help. These exercises help restore ankle range of motion. Stretching of the muscles of the back of the lower leg may be done while sitting or while standing if weight bearing is allowed.
Strengthening and stabilizing the ankle
These exercises should never be overdone. Your physical therapist will help you find the correct balance between not doing enough and going overboard. Strengthening and stabilizing your ankle after surgery is a top priority but must be achieved gradually. Your therapy will include exercises for the muscles around the ankle, the rest of the operative leg, the trunk, non-operative leg and arms. The first phase of your strength-building will start with non-weight bearing exercises followed by resistance exercises. Resistance may be in the form of elastic bands or tubing. If weight bearing is limited, seated exercises may be performed using a rocker board or a balance board under the foot on the operative side. Strengthening exercises may then progress to weight bearing exercises.
A WELL-ROUNDED ANKLE SURGERY REHABILITATION PROGRAM
Besides building flexibility, range of motion and strength, your rehabilitation after ankle surgery will also focus on balance, endurance and functional activities such as climbing the stairs. Your therapy will include posture training and exercises to make sure your hips and knees don’t weaken while you are keeping weight off your ankle.