Having underwent ankle surgery at the beginning of the year, I learned a lot about what it is like to be a patient in this situation. I thought it might be helpful to share some tips which may be useful for somebody preparing for surgery.
Being Prepared / Thinking ahead
Thinking about the aftermath is important. It’s key to prepare as much as possible. Thinking about making arrangements with work and family is important.Considering mobility restrictions, driving restrictions, meal preparation and washing limitations is vital. We often think we will manage absolutely fine on our own but in hindsight I would definitely recommend trying to have someone around for the first few days post op. Following most procedures we are encouraged to take it easy- having this time for recuperation is key. Any lower limb surgery will require elevation and this can only be done by coming off our feet so it’s important to think about how this will happen. Remembering that you will be tired and sleepy post op and having everything ticked off will make things easier.
Managing your wound. It’s very important here to adopt the advice that the nursing staff and consultant give to you on discharge. The rule should be to respect your wound and despite our inquisitive nature not to go tampering with any bandages/ plasters. You will be advised of any worrying signs that you should look out for and rather than self-managing its important to contact the hospital if you have any concerns. A wound that is closed and has no issues will make things very simple from a physiotherapy perspective. A wound that has a question mark around it will slow things down and so it’s important to give the wound every chance to heal. Keeping it dry, avoiding showering / risk of getting water into the wound and avoiding touching it will give you a good chance.
Put very simple post operative pain is expected. Often in theatre a consultant will put local anaesthetic into the joint. In this case it will numb the area and reduce any pain but the key here is that it will wear off. Being prepared and taking analgesia as prescribed in preparation for this can help a lot. Often for the first 48-72 hours you will experience difficult pain – but remember this is the time when you are tired, your body is adjusting to the procedure and overall you are a little muddled at this point. Again that’s why it is important to have someone around. But normally after this period things start to improve, don’t get me wrong you will of course still have pain but this is where taking some analgesia as prescribed to you is important. It is important from a physiotherapy perspective to have your pain controlled to help you complete the tasks that they will ask of you.
Patience is key
Rehabilitation after an operation was described to me as being a bit like playing snakes and ladders. Some days you go forward and some days you will go backwards. Recognising that there will be twists along the way is ok. Having the patience to recognise that 12 weeks is a good initial milestone to see where you really are with regards your rehabilitation. Of course most people will see the consultant or physiotherapist before this to help flag any issues and raise any concerns. Overall it’s important to recognise that in the initial weeks postoperatively things won’t always go the same or run completely smoothly. Sometimes pain will be worse and sometimes pain will be better. Often in the clinic when we look back with a patient about why they may have more pain is because they have done something relatively simple in there mind but overall it is a little more than what they can tolerate at that particular time. Bearing in mind then when doing something consider its effect 24/48 hours after as it can often take your body time to adjust.
Set short term goals
Understanding what is expected of you with regards your rehabilitation is very important for focusing your energy. The only way you will know this is to ask the question. Ask the person involved in your care what is expected of you. I found that short term goals worked well. I knew that my stitches were to be removed at day 14 and so all my focus was around ensuring that all was ok with this. I knew the next thing was to ensure I was gradually progressing my walking. These are two very simple examples and will be unique to individuals. Having small goals can really help to narrow down and be precise with your rehabilitation.