After careful consideration of surgical and non-invasive options, I consented to ganglion metatarsal bone cyst foot surgery. While I knew that none of the proposed surgical procedures offered a 100% guarantee, I was willing to go ahead with the procedure that made the most sense. For background information, see Tips for Handling Multiple Doctors’ Opinions.
Today, I will share what I learned from this foot surgery and simultaneously offer tips for people who are contemplating foot surgery or are presently going through the recovery phase.
6 POST-SURGICAL TIPS
Use life-giving positivity to put the breaks on your negative thoughts and negative life-draining negativity. Focus on the benefits of your surgery rather than the frustrations that normally encompass a surgical procedure. It’s important that you approach the recovery phase with an upbeat attitude.
Everyone has a unique pain tolerance level. Each body part has a different number of nerve endings. Keep in mind that your feet have more nerve-endings per square inch than any other body part. While I was aware of this fact, I didn’t anticipate how much this foot surgery would hurt.
Yikes! My pain was disproportionate to the tiny surgical site. I had to acknowledge my limitations until my pain subsided.
Avoid Comparing Yourself to Others
Yes, it’s great to know that the average recovery time should be X number of weeks. If your rehab takes longer than anticipated, don’t get unglued. Everyone recovers at a different rate. You can look to other people’s experiences as a guide, but it’s unwise to believe that you’ll follow the same path.
Manage Your Limited Mobility
If you’re an active person, it will be harder to deal with your lack of independence. Crutches and scooters will put a crimp on your day-to-day life. Avoid getting too upset by your lack of mobility.
Gradually, increase the amount of time you spend upright. In the early stages, medical professionals recommend that you keep your foot elevated. I definitely knew when my leg was down too long. As soon as my foot started to throb intensely, I knew that I had surpassed my limit.
Focus on the long-term goal of returning to your former lifestyle. Don’t get hung up on any minor setbacks.
Traveling During the First Six Weeks
I chose to travel twice during this period. After a couple of weeks, I flew to Chicago. I didn’t feel strong enough to hop through two major airports and a large hotel. Whenever possible, I arranged for wheelchairs and reserved a handicap room. For additional information, I recommend reading Tips for Traveling With Crutches.
At about 5 ½ weeks post-op, I went on a business road trip. To limit the inevitable throbbing, I elevated my leg in the backseat of the car during the longer rides and avoided standing too long. My daily walking was kept to a minimum. I made sure that the organizers of the trip were aware of my limitations.
The length of time I spent transitioning from non-weight bearing status to partial weight-bearing to walking unassisted was unique to my situation. It was longer than the initial projection. I had no choice but to remain patient throughout this tedious process.
Was I disappointed and frustrated?
Yep. But, I persevered.
Could I do everything I wanted? No!
It was almost three months post-op before my foot cooperated and I could drive my car again.
Was it frustrating? Yes.
But I knew from past experience that I had to wait until my body was ready to move to the next level.
I viewed the recovery process as a marathon where I had to pace myself rather than a sprint that would be completed quickly.
4 REHABBING TIPS
Follow the Doctor’s Protocols
Each doctor determines his or her post-op protocols based on multiple factors. If your doctor recommends physical therapy, find a therapist who will follow through accordingly. I started physical therapy after I was weight bearing and the pain had subsided significantly. My therapist, Mike, provided a progression of exercises and also worked on my foot scar as well as the soft tissues and muscles in my foot, ankle, leg, and hip. My situation was a bit more complex since my pre-surgical foot pain prevented me from completing the physical therapy for my knee.
If physical therapy isn’t required, read about different ways that you can regain your strength, flexibility, range of motion, and stamina. After creating a plan, share your ideas with your surgeon or physician assistant to make sure that he or she agrees with your strategy. During the post-op recovery phase, you should avoid activities that could cause re-injury.
Listen to Your Body and Gradually Increase Activity Level
Once your feeling more like yourself, you’ll be prone to want to do more and more. It’s tempting. But your body will send blunt messages when you’ve overdone it. The foot pain will intensify and the toes may swell. It’s even possible that other parts of your leg may hurt. These are indications that you need to slow down your pace. A little TLC may be warranted.
Finding the delicate balance between increasing activity levels and managing discomfort can be tricky. In some situations, non-weight bearing activities such as swimming and riding a stationary bicycle may be better than walking.
If you’ve been sedentary for a while, take it slowly as you resume activity. The first time I returned to swimming, I spent most of my time walking in the water and only five minutes of swimming. After several weeks, I was back to swimming for more than 30 minutes without stopping and doing another 30 minutes of combined aerobic activity and walking in the pool. I’ve always tried to incorporate water aerobics using Hydro Fit products, walking in the pool, and swimming with Aqua Sphere training flippers as part of my rehab process.
Due to the time needed to heal my bone graft, I was advised to avoid high impact activities for at least six months.
If something doesn’t seem quite right, don’t hesitate to call the doctor’s office. Just a few weeks ago, I felt like there was a sliver in my incision. I learned that it was a dissolvable stitch that was trying to come through my skin. While the surgeon offered to retrieve it, I’ve chosen to wait and see if it heals on its own.
If you’re not sure how quickly you should be increasing your activity level, call someone on your medical team. Don’t forget to ask about your individual post-surgical restrictions.
Post-Surgical Foot Gear
For the first couple of weeks, my foot was wrapped in an oversized soft cast. This apparatus made me feel off-balanced when I hopped around on crutches. As a result, I had to be extra careful so that I wouldn’t topple.
When the cast was removed, I was placed back into an orthopedic boot. It was the same one that was prescribed after my injury. I was instructed on how to use crutches so that I could be partially weight-bearing. When the pain intensified, I had to return to my previous hop status for another week or so.
Thereafter, I was able to gradually increase the weight I distributed on both of my feet. Over time, I put more and more weight on the surgical foot. At approximately five weeks, I graduated to an orthopedic shoe. This hard soles shoe was easier to navigate than the boot, but it was still a different height compared to my other shoe. This created a hobbling effect. My hip started to suffer from the unevenness of my gait.
Within a few weeks, I was once again able to move on to the next step. I was so excited to put on my previously comfortable HOKA ONE ONE shoes. These were the only shoes that I was able to wear before the surgery.
All of my HOKA ONE ONE shoes irritated the incision line on the top of my foot and increased the pain in the metatarsal region. I was frustrated.
What was I going to wear?
I looked at the composition of the post-surgical shoe and observed that it was totally flat and extremely wide. My first stop was the Boulder REI store. The shoe saleslady directed me to similarly constructed shoes. The closest match was the Lone’s Peak 3.5 trail running shoe by Altra. On the Altra website, I read about the Zero Drop™ Platform and wide toe box. I followed their recommendations to purchase a half size larger shoe. I was so happy when I tried this shoe on. It was a great fit. I walked out of the store delighted that I could walk in shoes again.
The Altra shoe solved my outdoor concerns. I still needed to find an indoor shoe because I was instructed to avoid going barefoot. While ordering shoes online can be a disastrous experience, I decided to take a gamble. I ordered the HOKA ONE ONE recovery sandal. As a former teacher, I say THUMBS UP to this shoe. To protect the incision line, I wear a pair of socks. It may look a bit funky, but I’m able to walk around the house without pain. I purchased a second pair to wear when I go swimming.
I’m now four months post-op. I’m pleased with my recovery process.
Yes, the initial few weeks were painful and challenging. In retrospect, having two orthopedic surgeries within three months of one another may not have been a wise idea. I was extremely tired and simply didn’t seem quite right.
For weeks, the top of my foot looked like someone had dropped a piano on it. The bruising covered the top half of my foot. The pain was definitely more than I anticipated. Since I rarely experience post-op bruising, I was surprised.
But, at about five weeks post-op, I rounded the corner. I was able to participate in a weeklong press trip which uplifted my spirits. This invitation provided an incentive to reach an obtainable goal. Successful rehabbing requires being motivated to reach definable milestones. After accepting the invitation to attend the media trip, I worked toward being able to walk a mile and to stand for at least 10 minutes.
To my surprise, I walked up a steep portion of the Oregon Trail. While admiring the view, I breathed in deeply. Wow! I was thrilled that I could do this at less than 6-weeks post-op. There were several participants who didn’t even try.
Just a few weeks later, the bruising was gone. I was able to walk an easy five-mile mountain trail. I slowed my pace when I approached the uneven rocky surfaces and the wooden footbridges that crossed small creeks. By the end of my adventure, my spirits were soaring and my foot was sore. I’ve trekked a few more times in Summit County, Colorado. Each time the foot is responding more favorably while my hip is slower to follow. Eventually, I regained all of my independence and drove my car again to Denver.
I’ve gradually increased my swimming routine to include three one-hour sessions per week and I’m walking a couple of miles in my neighborhood twice a week. While I’m still not back to my pre-injury state, I’m diligently working toward my goal of skiing this December. I missed the entire season last year due to my knee and foot injuries.
After reading a preponderance of medical studies that tie physical activity levels to longevity, I’m trudging on. Now that my knee and foot have been successfully repaired, I’m ready to go back to exploring the world and sharing my travel adventures.
Meaningful Anniversary (hip replacement)
CAN YOU SHARE?
Each person has his or her own recovery story. We can all gain something from reading about how others handle their rehab process. Do you have any tips that you’d like to share with my readers?
Sandra Bornstein is a freelance travel and lifestyle writer. She shares her experiences and recommendations on this blog and on other websites. Check out Sandra’s second website, https://thetravelingbornsteins.com. It exclusively focuses on travel.
Sandra contributes a monthly travel tip column for Golden Living, a Best Version Media magazine. She also writes for Fareportal’s online sites—One Travel Going Places and CheapOAir Miles Away.
Sandra is the author of MAY THIS BE THE BEST YEAR OF YOUR LIFE. This memoir highlights Sandra’s living and teaching adventure in Bangalore, India. As a licensed Colorado teacher, Sandra has taught K-12 students in the United States and abroad. She also taught college-level courses.
Sandra’s memoir was a finalist in the Travel category for the 2013 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, the 2013 International Book Awards, the 2013 National Indie Book Excellence Awards, 2013 USA Best Book Awards, and an Honorable Mention award in the Multicultural Non-Fiction category for the 2013 Global ebook Awards.