Arthritis in your ankle can be painful to deal with since you bear all your weight on your ankle with each step you take. The pain may cause you to become sedentary and isolated. When treatments by your podiatrist no longer control the pain, it might be time to consider surgery. One type of surgery used to treat ankle arthritis is a total ankle replacement. Here's a look at what to expect with pain and recovery after this procedure.
What To Expect With Pain
You'll probably have general anesthesia for this type of surgery, so you'll sleep throughout it and won't experience any pain. Your doctor might also give you a nerve block so you'll feel less pain initially when you wake up from surgery. An ankle replacement involves making an incision in your ankle and removing damaged parts of your joint that could include bones and cartilage. Then, metal ends are placed on your bones and a plastic pad is inserted so the ends glide over each other easily. Once the surgery is over and the anesthetic has worn off, you'll have some pain from the procedure, but it can usually be controlled well by taking pain medication on schedule until healing is underway.
What To Expect With Recovery
Two important aspects of recovery from a total ankle replacement are keeping your ankle immobile right after the surgery and not bearing weight on your ankle until you've been cleared to do so by your doctor. You'll most likely go home with a splint and dressing that holds your ankle in a stable position so you can't move your ankle until your doctor has examined you. You'll need to keep your foot elevated right after the surgery, but even though you can't move your ankle, you'll still be encouraged to get up and move around as soon as possible.
It might be a few weeks before you can put weight on your ankle, so you'll have to use crutches, a knee scooter, or a wheelchair to stay mobile until you can walk again. When you're ready to start putting weight on your ankle and walk normally, your doctor will likely send you to physical therapy. The period of immobility and not using your ankle causes the muscles in your ankle area to get weak. A physical therapist teaches exercises that strengthen your muscles and increase range of motion of your ankle so you're not at risk of injury once you resume all your normal activities.
Total ankle replacement surgery could make a big difference in your life by reducing your arthritis pain and helping you stay mobile. However, not everyone is a good match for this procedure (and if not, other surgical options might be tried). Your podiatrist can help you choose the right way to treat your ankle arthritis and decide if an ankle replacement is a good option for you.