With any surgery comes reasonable concerns. Depending on the person, your mind could start racing anywhere from the seriousness of your condition, to the procedure itself, to out-of-pocket costs or the required downtime. However, when it comes to foot and ankle surgery, there is the inevitable question: How bad will it hurt afterwards?
Even if you have a high tolerance for pain, the unfortunate truth is that pain can accompany the healing process following any surgery. “But, with the proper care, healing after foot and ankle surgery can be more comfortable than people might expect, according to Florida-based foot and ankle surgeon and American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeon Dr. James M. Cottom DPM, FACFAS of Florida Orthopedic Foot & Ankle Center in Sarasota, FL.
“With the availability of such a large variety of highly effective pain medications, fear of pain should be the last deterrent keeping patients from having foot or ankle surgery. Patients can take comfort in knowing that as surgeons, we have an equally vested interest in keeping them comfortable so their surgical experience is positive and they have a speedy recovery,” said Dr. Cottom.
Dr. Cottom explains that patients can receive a local, long-lasting anesthetic immediately before surgery, which significantly decreases pain and can keep the leg numb for 48-72 hours after the surgery. Most discomfort after any type of orthopedic procedure occurs within the first 24-36 hours after surgery. With these regional blocks, we are able to keep patients very comfortable after a procedure.. Also, in today’s healthcare climate where efforts to reduce prescription drug addiction are at an all-time high, there are stronger anti-inflammatory medications available, which can eliminate the need for pain relievers containing narcotics.
Of course, not all pain being created equal, there are other options for patients to manage their comfort levels following surgery. Depending on the expected degree of pain, patients can take home a pain pump, which allows them to self-administer pain medication intravenously, allowing for a faster and more potent delivery.
“Ultimately, if a patient needs to undergo surgery, it clearly means something is wrong and requires medical correction or extraction. That in mind, we want to help patients feel good about their surgery and think about how better they will feel afterward, versus the pain during healing,” reasons Dr. Cottom.
Pain Management After Foot Surgery
In addition to medication, a tried and true method in controlling pain following foot or ankle surgery is to apply rest, ice, compression and elevation (RICE). “Using the RICE method reduces swelling in the surgical area. By reducing the swelling, inflammation is minimized, which in large part lowers pain,” added Dr. Cottom. We will often use a cooling system that is placed inside a patients splint at the time of surgery that works very well at keeping continued cool therapy on the operated extremity. Many patients have found this to be very helpful in keeping discomfort to a minimum.
The American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons recommends patients talk to their foot and ankle surgeon before their procedure to determine how much pain they can expect and the plan of action for managing their pain after surgery.
For more information on controlling your pain after foot or ankle surgery, contact Dr. Cottom at 941.924.8777 to obtain more information.