Information for patients
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This information is intended for patients who are at least 2 weeks post-operative and have had their foot dressings, leg/foot casts and external wires removed.
- Remember: You have recently had a foot operation and need to take things steady. Increase your activities slowly day by day depending on pain / discomfort.
- Be patient: It will be some time until you can return to normal full activities without discomfort, up to 1 year in some cases. If you are concerned about your progress, please seek advice.
- Trainers are your friend: Running shoes are best as they support the foot and help manage swelling.
- Moisturising and massaging the scar line helps reduce the chance of developing a painful scar. Once or twice a day is recommended.
- Post-operative exercises help improve the function of the toe(s) after surgery. Performing these as instructed reduces the likelihood of significant stiffness / weakness.
2 weeks after your surgery
At this stage, most patients will have had their wound dressings removed. Any non-dissolvable stitches will be taken out. These occasionally bleed slightly, if this happens keep the area clean and dry and covered for 24 hours. If dissolvable stitches have been used, these are not removed and will slowly be absorbed by your body. The incision / scar is delicate at first and needs to be treated with care.
Please use a clean cotton sock and gently ease your foot into a trainer or other suitable lace-up shoe. You should expect to continue with these shoes for the first 6-8 weeks. If you are unsure what is suitable please ask one of the team.
A running shoe / trainer will help compress some of the swelling, and may feel tight initially. It is important that you persist with keeping your shoe on during the day even while around the house. It is advised that you put your shoe on first thing in the morning and keep it on as long as possible, preferably, until you go to bed. Loose shoes / slippers should be avoided as these can encourage swelling.
Wash but do not soak your foot for the first week after your dressings have been removed. Gently dry your foot and in between your toes with a clean towel. Following this, provided the wound is dry you may return to normal bathing. If you notice any discharge from the wound, cover the area with a clean dry dressing and contact the clinic for advice.
Use of creams
After one week and if your wound is dry, you can start to massage the scar using firm pressure to tolerance with emollient cream. Most thick creams are suitable e.g. E45, Aqueous cream and Vaseline® Intensive Care. Alternatively, scar creams such as Bio-Oil® can be used. Massage the cream into the scar twice a day, especially after bathing. Initially this can be quite uncomfortable. Do not use creams on open wounds.
It is normal for the foot to swell within the first 3 months especially after a busy day or standing for a long time. This typically improves with time, however it may take several months for this to fully resolve.
The foot may appear more red / purple for the first few months following foot surgery. This is due to increased blood flow as it heals and is usually most obvious when the foot is warm e.g. after activity or following a hot bath / shower.
Loss of sensation
There will always be some loss of sensation and numbness around the operation site. This tends to be noticeable in the first two or three months after the operation, but after a year or so it can improve and normal sensation return.
You can start to return to normal activities a bit at a time. If you have been using crutches, you can usually stop using them at this stage.
Your foot may still be uncomfortable at this stage particularly towards the end of the day; you must moderate your activity levels accordingly. If you have to take painkillers or are getting a lot of pain at the end of the day, make sure to slow down, you are probably doing too much. If you are getting continuous pain that is not improving, please contact the clinic for advice.
While some sporting activities / exercise may be possible after foot surgery, it is important that you seek advice from the clinical team as individual circumstances / preferred exercises are likely to require tailored advice.
It is generally advised that swimming should be avoided for 6 weeks and impact activities such as running / jogging / Zumba and aerobics, are avoided for 3 months following bone surgery. A gradual return to exercise is recommended.
You may start driving when you feel confident that you are safe and can perform an emergency stop. This will be different stages for different people. This is particularly important if you have had an operation on your right foot. It is advisable that you also seek advice from you motor insurance provider before you drive.
Exercise and rehabilitation
If appropriate, your Podiatrist will show you some exercises for you to perform following your surgery when you have made sufficient progress. These may include the following:
You will be given a piece of elastic band (theraband).
- Sit with your foot and leg out in front of you on a bed or sofa.
- Place the centre of the band under your big toe. Keeping hold of the two ends of the band, and pull gently on the band so that there is some tension in it.
- Push your toe away from you against the band. Hold for a count of five seconds then relax. Repeat 10 times, 5 times per day guided by pain.
- Lay a towel or the piece of theraband on the floor.
- Stand or sit on a chair with your foot on the towel.
- Try to pick up the towel by scrunching your toes.
- Now straighten the towel out, again using your toes. Repeat 10 times, 5 times per day guided by pain.
Keeping the movement in your toe
This exercise can be performed sat down and in shoes initially, and then you can progress to standing barefoot.
- Put your foot flat on the ground with your big toe on the floor. Lift your heel off the ground keeping your toes flat on the floor (as if you were wearing a heeled shoe).
- Hold this for a count of ten, then relax. Repeat 10 times, 5 times per day guided by pain. As this exercise becomes easier, gradually transfer more weight onto the operated foot.
During your recovery, it is normal to tilt your foot to the outside to avoid walking through your big toe. As your foot becomes more comfortable, you will find it easier and more comfortable to return to ‘normal walking’. As you do so, you can increase the length of your stride as this will encourage more movement and less stiffness in the joint.
Recovery from this surgery varies from person to person and it is important to be patient with your progress.
It is important that you continue your rehabilitation. At your next appointment, you will be able to discuss the progress you have made.
Returning to work
The nature of your surgery and your occupation will determine how much time off work you require, although 6-8 weeks is not uncommon especially for standing jobs. You will be advised on an individual basis how much time off you can expect.
If you have a problem or need advice, please contact the Podiatric Surgery Department as early in the day as possible.
Podiatric Surgery Department – North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust
One Life Hartlepool
Monday – Friday 8:30am – 4.30pm
Telephone: 01429 522471
If you need advice out of our normal office hours, please phone NHS Choices.
Calls to this number are free from landlines and mobile phones
When it is less urgent than 999 call 111
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We are continually trying to improve the services we provide. We want to know what we’re doing well or if there’s anything which we can improve, that’s why the Patient Experience Team (PET) is here to help. Our Patient Experience Team is here to try to resolve your concerns as quickly as possible. The office is based on the ground floor at the University Hospital of North Tees if you wish to discuss concerns in person. If you would like to contact or request a copy of our PET leaflet, please contact:
Telephone: 01642 624719
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This leaflet has been produced in partnership with patients and carers. All patient leaflets are regularly reviewed, and any suggestions you have as to how it may be improved are extremely valuable. Please write to the Clinical Governance team, North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust, University Hospital of North Tees, TS19 8PE or:
Email: [email protected]
Leaflet Reference: PIL1282
Date for Review: 30/04/2024