Ankle Arthroscopy Recovery

Also called "scoping the ankle", arthroscopic ankle surgery is a minimally invasive surgery recommended for the treatment of a variety of ankle conditions and injuries. It can be performed in an outpatient facility or in a hospital under regional or general anesthetic. The procedure involves making small cuts around the ankle and looking inside the incisions with an arthroscope to identify and correct issues. An arthroscope is a tiny tube that has a light source and a camera lens attached to it. It helps see inside the incision and allows an orthopedic surgeon to use surgical instruments to repair the area. Even though it is a minimally invasive surgery, ankle arthroscopy recovery can take some time. 

How Long Is the Recovery Time of Ankle Arthroscopy?

How long it takes you to recover from an ankle surgery depends on what type of injury you had and what part of the ankle became affected. Your recovery phase is going to be longer in case you have undergone a more complex surgery. Nevertheless, it may take 2-3 weeks for discomfort and swelling to resolve after your surgery, but you may be able to use your ankle for different activities after 6-8 weeks of surgery. Full recovery can take around 12 weeks.

When Can You Drive After Ankle Arthroscopy?

Your surgeon will help you make a decision in this regard. They will consider the type of procedure you have undergone and your ankle arthroscopy recovery level. In most cases, you can start driving when you are not taking narcotic pain medication and can bear weight without limitation. It may take several days or 1-2 months before you can start driving again.

When Can You Go Back to Work or Sports?

The type of procedure you have undergone plays a big role in this case. You can return to work if your joint seems mobile enough to complete your job duties safely. In most cases, you can return to work after one or two weeks. Similarly, you can return to sports after your surgery but you will have to be extra cautious during the activity. Athletes may have to wait 4-6 weeks after the surgery to return to sports.

How to Speed Up the Recovery

It is possible to speed up your ankle arthroscopy recovery by taking certain steps. Here are some suggestions.

1. Try Rehabilitation Exercises

These exercises not only strengthen your ankle but also add flexibility to the joint. Be sure to talk to your doctor before you try any of these exercises. Stop immediately if an exercise causes any discomfort.

  • Ankle Extension: Sit in a chair and extend your affected leg in front of you until it becomes parallel to the ground. Now, extend your ankle slowly by pointing your toes forward and then move your toes back to flex the ankle. Hold the stretched position for at least five seconds and do 10 repetitions.
  • Ankle Rolls: Get in a chair and extend your leg in front of you. Now, draw 10 circles counterclockwise and then 10 more circles clockwise. Make the circles bigger as you continue doing the exercise for a few days. Keep them smaller if you feel any discomfort.
  • Resisted Ankle Extension/Flexion: Sit in a chair and extend your both legs in front of you with your heels on the floor. Point your toes upward. Take a resistance band and loop the middle of it around your injured foot, and then extend your ankle to stretch the band.
  • Walking: One simple way to shorten recovery time is to walk as much as you can without causing any discomfort to your ankle. Ask your doctor when you can start walking. Start by taking a short walk inside your house and then go out to walk around the block. Increase the distance over time to strengthen your ankle muscles.

2. RICE Method

Your doctor may recommend rest, ice, compression and elevation (RICE) method to help accelerate healing.

  • Rest: Walking is good, but your ankle needs rest as well. Ask your doctor about how long you should restrict activity and rest.
  • Ice Pack: Apply an ice pack on your affected ankle to help reduce bleeding, swelling, and pain.
  • Compression: Keep your ankle compressed with dressings to reduce swelling and keep your joint stable. Ensure your dressings are snug but not too tight to affect proper circulation.
  • Elevation: Keep your foot above the level of your heart to promote circulation and drain excess fluids away. This greatly helps reduce discomfort and swelling.

3. Medications

Your doctor may prescribe pain medications to decrease your pain. Ensure that you do not wait until your pain becomes severe and take your pain medications as prescribed by the doctor. Talk to your doctor if your pain persists or you notice any side effects. Inform your doctor about any herbs, vitamins, or medicines you may already be taking. 

4. Wound Care

Taking the right care of your wound is also important to shorten your ankle arthroscopy recovery phase. Be sure to keep your bandage clean and dry, and never remove it from your wound until your doctor allows you to. Clean your wound as instructed by your doctor.

5. Diet

Pay attention to what you eat during the recovery phase to accelerate healing. Here are some tips:

  • Have your normal diet. If you have an upset stomach, try bland food such as broiled chicken, plain rice, yogurt and toast.
  • Keep your body hydrated and drink plenty of water and fluids. Limit your fluid intake in case your doctor has said so.
  • Include fiber-rich food in your diet or take fiber supplements to make your bowel movements regular after surgery.

When Should You Call for Help?

You should call 911 or emergency help if you have breathing difficulties, or have sudden chest pain. Seek immediate medical assistance if you cough up blood and have shortness of breath.

Here are some other situations when you should call your doctor immediately:

  • Your foot or toes feel numb.
  • Your foot looks pale or cool.
  • You have pain in the back of the knee, in your calf, or redness in your groin, which indicates a blood clot.
  • You cannot drink fluids and have trouble keeping them down.
  • Your pain persists after taking pain medicine.
  • You should also seek medical attention if you notice any signs of infection, such as a fever, pus draining from the incisions, increased pain, and red streaks leading from your wound or incision. 
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