Preparing For Ankle Surgery To Fix Your Ankle Instability

You often sprain your ankle when playing sports, and sometimes it happens just walking down the street. The ligaments and tendons in your ankle no longer support that joint like they should. Non-invasive therapy gives you little relief. Your podiatrist recommends surgery to strengthen your ankle. Here is what to expect from this procedure and how to have a successful recovery.

Tightening Up the Supporting Structures

The ligaments that hold the bones in your ankle together have experienced stretching and tiny tears that lengthen them slightly. This allows the ankle bones to move away from each other too much. This puts stress on the tendons that attach the muscles to the bones causing them to stretch, too. This excess movement between the structures in your ankle are what allows it to collapse under your weight and sprain your ankle.

The surgery will tighten up those structures so the bones won't move beyond their natural limits. To accomplish this, the surgeon may:

  • shorten the ligaments that hold the bones together
  • shorten the tendons that hold the muscles onto the ankle joint on either side
  • shorten or reattach the Achilles tendon at the rear of your ankle to strengthen that support

Initial Steps When Recovering from Ankle Surgery

The tendons in your ankle have less blood supply than muscles, and the ligaments have even less. This slows down the healing process of those tissues. As they are healing, you are at risk of re-injuring your ankle, even to the point of requiring another surgery. For the first few weeks after your surgery, your doctor will have you wear an ankle support to hold the ankle in place while the tissues heal. You'll be allowed to put some weight on your ankle, but you'll walk with crutches or a walker to relieve some of the pressure from your ankle.

Physical Therapy Gets You Back On Your Feet

After this initial healing phase, the muscles in your ankle will be tense and your ankle will feel stiff. Your podiatrist will have you work with a physical therapist to put your ankle through range of motion exercises to slowly stretch out those muscles to their natural length. You'll need to take it slow and easy during this phase because you could damage the soft tissues that are still healing by overdoing it.

Strengthening Your Ankle

You'll spend several weeks stretching out those ankle muscles, then you'll begin strengthening exercises. This builds up muscle mass and endurance so the muscles will hold the ankle joint in place and not let the structures move apart enough to cause a sprain. Your physical therapist will have you work with machines to strengthen the muscles. You'll also be responsible for walking several times a day or using a treadmill to build up strength. You'll set a pace with the therapist that you don't want to exceed because you could still injure your ankle.

Strengthening your ankle for normal daily activities will take several weeks. If you'll be returning to sports or activities that require intense physical exercise, your doctor will have you spend several weeks beyond that conditioning your ankle. The stronger your ankle is, the more protection it has from spraining.

For more information, contact a local podiatrist like Better Foot Care.