If you have thought about surgery or have already scheduled it, it's a good idea to go over some key pointers of what to expect after surgery.
We often hear the mnemonic “RICE”, Rest, ice, compression and elevate, but what does that mean and how important is it after surgery?
- REST: Believe it or not, many patients use the time they take off from surgery to get stuff done at home that they did not have time to do while they were working! To our overachievers, keep in mind that the first 3-4 days after surgery are when you tend to have the most pain and swelling. This may sound obvious but get on the couch or in bed and REST when you get home, even if you're not in pain. It is important to get off your feet and take it easy because the longer you are standing, the more pain and swelling you will have when the local anesthetic wears off. Also, bear in mind that taking narcotics post operatively can make you clumsy! On the couch, you are less likely to do something that could potentially injure the surgical site. Resting keeps you out of harm's way!
- ICE: You should start icing your foot when you come home and continue icing for at least the first 48 hours. Avoid putting ice directly on your skin or directly on your toes to avoid frostbite. Always have a barrier between your skin and the ice, like a cotton T shirt or a thin towel if your ice pack is not wrapped in anything to begin with. Apply the ice pack no longer than 20-30 minutes at a time, then remove the ice pack and allow your skin to thaw by removing the ice for 30 minutes. Do this 4-8 times a day. Never fall asleep while icing to avoid getting frostbite. When it comes to location, Besides icing over the surgery site (except over the toes), some of the best places to ice are right behind the knee and in front or inside part of the ankle. The blood vessels run superficial in these areas and really can calm down postoperative inflammation. When you ice, be sure that you have your foot above your waist level or, if you're laying down, just above the level of the heart to facilitate blood circulation. For more information on how to properly ice your foot, click here!
- COMPRESSION: More likely than not, when you wake up from surgery, you will have an ACE wrap covering the white bandage around your foot and ankle.This ACE wrap is meant to help keep the swelling down by providing compression. While it does a very good job of this, sometimes it is put on a little more snug than you may be able to tolerate. If this happens and your foot is throbbing, it is ok to loosening the ACE wrap a little while leaving the white bandage underneath intact.
- ELEVATE: Elevating your foot to just above the level of your heart makes it easier for your body to control the swelling and, the less you, the less pain you will have! For more information on how to properly elevate your foot, click here!