With great care your surgeon has explained the details of the surgical procedures, discussed with you the things that could go wrong since this is not a perfect world, and developed a game plan for recovering from surgery to achieve the best possible outcome. At least at Geller Podiatry, this is how it is done.
A great deal of information gets exchanged, but ultimately the days or weeks leading up to your surgery are busy planning for the big day. You need to schedule time off from work, someone to help with household chores, care for the kids and their needs. I’ve already written about planning before surgery, but there are little things that can make a huge difference.
What is the biggest obstacle to healing your hammertoe surgery? After thousands of hammertoes treated at Geller Podiatry the one thing that differs between easy and difficult recovery from surgery is swelling. Remember what I always say, “You can’t start to heal until inflammation is gone”. Well one of the key signs of inflammation is swelling.
Toes are small. There isn’t much room for them to swell. Increased pressure on nerves causes more pain. Increased pressure on your circulation to the toe makes healing take longer. Patients who control swelling from day 1 always have a faster recovery.
The key to controlling swelling: “RICE”
Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation
The way I discuss surgery with my patients always involves this statement: “No matter how minor you think this surgery is going to be, you need to treat it like it is major surgery”. If you think you are going to pick up where you left off one or two days after surgery, think again! Your daily routine will have to wait for your recovery, that’s why we plan before your operation. First of all rest involves lying down, not just sitting. you will be prescribed a boot to wear on your foot. This boot is also part of rest. The area of surgery will be protected or rested while wearing the boot. Do not remove the boot until you are told that this is OK.
In all of my years of experience I would have to say that ice is possibly the most under-rated anti-inflammatory in the world. There are some simple rules you need to follow when using ice: 1. do not put ice directly on your skin; 2. ice is applied for 20 minutes and then left completely off for 40 minutes. Ice is usually applied to the ankle or behind your knee. My patients tell me that behind the knee is the easiest and if it’s easy you are more likely to do it. Put a washcloth over the ice pack and then rest your knee on the ice. If you leave the ice on for more than 20 minutes or without protecting your skin you could develop a cold injury or frostbite.
Keeping snug bandages on your foot help to prevent swelling. There is a difference between snug and tight. The appropriate amount of compression is still comfortable. If your compression is applied too tight you will notice things like the toe changing color, usually blue, but white can also occur. Numbness and tingling can occur when the bandages are too tight. If these are noticed call your surgeon and loosen the bandage. The layer of bandage that supplies the compression is always the outer most layer. If you need to loosen compression only touch this outermost layer, nothing beneath it without your doctor’s permission.
This is the easiest part, but the one most people fail to do. Elevation of a foot means getting your foot above your heart. Remember that the heart is in your chest, so you have to lie down and get your foot up on pillows or the arm of a couch. A helpful hint is to keep your knee bent slightly for comfort.
A Geller Podiatry, our team spends a tremendous amount of time with you planning for your surgery. These simple steps are what we see as making the biggest difference between what patients consider an easy recovery vs. a difficult recovery. Rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE) is an old standard because it works. Don’t underestimate the power of RICE. I hope you have a wonderful surgical experience when you decide to have your hammertoe surgically corrected.