The two most common goals when performing corrective foot surgery are to reduce pain and restore function.
There are many types of foot deformities. Some are present at birth. Others are due to injury, poor posture, incorrect footwear, or simply years of wear and tear. The decision to have corrective foot surgery can be tricky. Some foot problems can be corrected with conservative treatments such as braces or a cast. Then there are the problems that can only be resolved through surgery.
It’s important to understand how your doctor will decide if surgery is necessary and the general guidelines for a successful recovery.
Guidelines for Determining if Foot Surgery is Necessary
Each person is unique and has individual problems and concerns. Each doctor may also have different ideas about your foot condition and how it should be treated. The ultimate decision is yours to make. However, to get to the right decision, you will probably need input from your doctors as well as the results from certain imaging scans.
There are a few signs that can spur you to decide that the best option is to go ahead with corrective foot surgery. The following are signs that you may need surgery:
- Chronic pain, especially in the ankle or heel
- Pain when you move your foot
- Pain severe enough to make you limp
- Swelling, warmth, redness, and tenderness to the touch at any of your joints
- Pain that is worse in the morning, or any time after you have been resting
- Difficulty in walking
In addition to these signs that something is wrong, you may need surgery if you have corns, bunions, a bone spur or a condition called hammertoe.
Foot Surgery for Arthritis
Arthritis is a condition that causes inflammation of the joints. Although surgery cannot cure arthritis, it can repair the damaged joint and restore some function. The type of arthritis and the joints it is affecting will determine the type of surgery done. In some cases, the surgery can be performed laparoscopically.
In a synovectomy, the surgeon removes most of the synovium that has grown abnormally large and has produced an overabundance of fluid. This fluid eats at the cartilage in your joints, causing the cartilage to erode and bones to rub against each other. Removing the synovium provides relief but the condition may come back at a later time.
Arthroplasty is a joint replacement, but is not used on the ankle very often. An arthrodesis is when the joint is fused together, but this procedure is usually only used as a last resort.
Goals of Corrective Foot Surgery
If pain has prevented you from enjoying activities you once enjoyed, such as sports, corrective foot surgery can help you get back to those activities. Pain is also mentally draining and can lead to fear, anxiety, and depression. Correcting the problem and reducing the pain can provide mental relief as well as physical relief.
Recovery From Corrective Foot Surgery
Your individual recovery is affected by many factors, including the type of surgery that was performed, your general health, and the extent of the disability that was corrected. In general, however, your recovery will depend on how well prepared you were. If you know you will have to be off your feet for a period of time, you can spend the time before surgery arranging time off work, making childcare arrangements, and asking for housekeeping help. The more you can rest your foot, the faster you will recover.
Make sure you follow all recommendations from your surgeon, whether it is applying ice every few hours, elevating your foot, or taking pain medication. You will probably have a follow-up appointment within a week or two after surgery to check on your progress and remove stitches or staples that were used. One of the best things you can do to recover from your foot surgery is to keep in contact with your surgeon or primary care provider about any problems you are having. The sooner a problem is acknowledged and dealt with, the less serious it is likely to get.
Your feet are the foundation of your entire body, and when they are hurting or not functioning, it affects both your physical and mental well-being. If you are having a lot of foot pain, talk to your doctor about possible interventions.