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What Should I Expect After My Ankle Ligament Surgery?

May 5, 2023
What Should I Expect After My Ankle Ligament Surgery?
What do Tiger Woods, Michael Phelps, and Serena Williams have in common? Besides being internationally known athletes in their field, they have also all sustained sports injuries.
The muscles and tendons surrounding the previously injured ankle become weaker, contributing to a higher chance of reinjury when performing sports activities.
Those who experience recurring or severe ankle sprains may need to undergo minimally invasive and/or arthroscopic surgery to repair those ligaments. Here’s what you need to know about ankle ligament surgery and the recovery process after the procedure.

How Long Might It Take To Recover From Ankle Surgery?

Depending on the type of surgery, it usually takes 6 to 8 weeks for your ankle to recover especially if the procedure includes surgical repair of torn ligaments and tendons. Ankle ligament injuries coupled with fractures will usually require additional fixation of the fracture with metal implants. It will take more time to fully recover, from 8 weeks to 3 months, depending on the severity of the injury. Your orthopaedic surgeon will be able to advise you on the expected timeline of recovery for your specific condition.

When Can I Bear Weight On My Ankle?

When Can I Bear Weight On My Ankle?
Each rehabilitation protocol will vary depending on the type of injury and severity of the torn ligaments. In general, there are some weight-bearing protocols that you may similarly expect during your recovery after an ankle ligament surgery.
  • Recovery Phase I – In the first 2weeks after surgery, weekly follow-ups with the doctor are required to ensure the ankle wound is healing well. After the first 2 to 3 weeks , progressive weight-bearing may be applied on the foot with a boot or a cast together with the use of assistive devices like crutches.
  • Recovery Phase II – After the initial 6 weeks, the ankle should be at a nearly full range of motion. The patient will gradually transition to more weight-bearing by weaning off assistive devices to prepare for independent walking.
  • Recovery Phase III – This phase of recovery will begin to prepare the patient to return to sports. Once the patient has been cleared for full weight-bearing, the focus will be on strengthening the targeted lower extremities and sports-specific training.

Can I Drive After Ankle Ligament Surgery?

Driving is not recommended right after your surgery, especially if you are still on pain medications. If surgery was done on your left foot and you are driving an automatic car, driving might be possible once the pain and swelling have reduced over the affected area. Experiencing pain and swelling can distract you from focusing on the roads.

How Can I Manage Pain After Ankle Surgery?

Pain is to be expected after your ankle surgery despite how minimally invasive the procedure was. When there is a disruption to your natural body systems, the stages of healing always start with inflammation to begin the recovery process. Taking your prescribed pain medication as and when required can help keep your pain levels down, especially during the first two weeks. If your pain is not decreasing over the weeks or you feel it is worsening, always bring it up with your doctor at the follow-up appointments.

How Can I Manage Swelling After Ankle Surgery?

How Can I Manage Swelling After Ankle Surgery?
Swelling is also a common reaction after surgery, usually due to the increased white blood cells and fluid in the injured area during the healing process. However, too much swelling can be a cause of discomfort for patients.. There are several ways to manage this:
  • Keep your affected foot elevated above the ground. This helps to reduce fluid accumulation due to gravity if you keep your foot rested on the floor.
  • When lying down, prop your foot up above the level of your heart. This also assists in blood circulation.
  • While your foot is propped up, wiggle your toes or perform isometric contractions of your thigh muscles as often as possible to contract the muscles surrounding your ankle gently. Muscle contractions in that area help to facilitate the flow of fluid away from the foot and towards the heart.

What Can I Do To Speed Up The Recovery?

A good recovery can be encouraged by several factors!
  • Adequate sleep – Having quality rest will encourage the production of human growth hormones that stimulate tissue growth and muscle repair. 
  • Having a nutritious diet – Good quality caloric intake will help inhibit muscle breakdown during the initial periods of immobilisation.
  • Avoiding smoking and alcohol – Smoking and alcohol can  increase inflammation in the body, which impedes recovery as rehabilitation aims to reduce inflammation over time. 
  • Good wound care – Taking care of your wounds by not getting them wet and regularly changing the dressings will prevent infections.

Do I Need Physical Therapy?

Physical therapy is a must after ankle ligament surgery. By exercising other groups of muscles, you can maintain your muscle strength and reduce swelling in your ankle. Physical therapy also helps mobilise and strengthen your recovering ankle to prevent stiffness and muscle atrophy as rehabilitation progresses. You will learn how to use your assistive devices and advance to independent walking through physical therapy until you regain full mobility and can resume participating in sports.
If you are looking for an orthopaedic specialist, Dr Ananda Vella specialises in sports injuries and complex foot and ankle conditions.
Dr. Ananda Vella is a Singapore and Swiss-double-fellowship-trained MOH-accredited orthopaedic specialist consultant surgeon, As a former consultant from the Singapore General Hospital and Sengkang General Hospital and with more than 20 years of experience, Dr Ananda treats a variety of orthopaedic bone and joint conditions, including in his subspecialty focus of foot and ankle conditions, hip and knee pains, as well as sports injuries. Dr Ananda is also well-versed in minimally invasive surgical techniques, including having performed the first lateral total ankle replacement surgery in South-east Asia to improve outcomes for patients with severe arthritis.
Dr Ananda regularly practices in 3 clinics across Singapore and is accredited to operate in all private hospitals in Singapore. Should you have any queries or need any further assistance, please do not hesitate to schedule an appointment with our Dr Ananda by WhatsApp at 8860 0642 for assistance. Alternatively, please leave us a message via the enquiry form and we will get back to you as soon as possible.
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