The rope-like structure that keeps your muscle connected to bone is called a tendon. The muscle contraction pulls on the tendon that moves the bone. You have several tendons in the body, but the Achilles tendon, which links your calf muscles to the heel bone, is the strongest and largest of them all. This muscle-tendon combo helps you move your feet while walking or running, and the injury to this tendon may need a surgical repair. The Achilles tendon surgery recovery can take quite a long time.
What Is the Recovery Time of Achilles Tendon Surgery?
In most cases, you will be seen in the office for a couple of weeks after surgery. Your doctor will remove the splint and evaluate the surgical incision. They may also remove stitches during the evaluation. After this, you will have to stick to the postoperative protocol for 2-6 weeks. Keep in touch with your doctor to know when it is safe to use a walking boot. A cast instead of a boot is often suggested.
At about six weeks, your doctor would allow you to put full weight on the walking boot. This is usually the time when you would receive physical therapy, which greatly helps to restore ankle range of motion. You may also have to perform certain exercises to strengthen your calf muscles and Achilles. In most cases, you will return to full activity by six months. It is not always true for every patient, and the recovery time can be up to a year.
How to Shorten Your Achilles Tendon Surgery Recovery Time
While most patients require six months to a year to fully recover from an Achilles tendon surgery, you can always take steps to shorten your recovery time. Here are some suggestions.
1. Take Your Medicine As Directed
You should always follow the directions of your doctor when taking your medications. Be sure to inform them if your medicine is not delivering results. Also, tell them about any other vitamins, herbs, or medications you may already be taking. Ask them about how much, when and how to take. Your doctor may give you some pain medications to alleviate your pain. Be sure to take them regularly and do not wait until your pain becomes severe.
2. Physical Therapy
You may have to work with a physical therapist to learn certain exercises that help improve movement. Regular exercise also lowers the risk for loss of function. Your doctor may also teach you some exercises to perform at home. Be sure to do them as per your therapist’s instructions. Do not continue doing any exercise if you feel pain while performing them. Your physical therapies may include:
- Exercises in a Pool: These are low-impact exercises and work great because the buoyancy of the water allows you to walk with more ease. You can do it without having to put additional strain on the healing tendon.
- Ultrasound Therapy: Your physical therapist may consider making use of electrical modalities such as interferential current or ultrasound to help reduce the pain and control post-surgical inflammation.
- Strengthening Exercises: Your physical therapist will teach you exercises to strengthen your calf muscles. This helps prevent another injury that might happen due to weak muscles and tendons.
- Deep Massage: You may receive deep massage from your physical therapist that not only improves blood circulation in your lower leg but increases flexibility as well.
3. Making Use of Crutches or a Cane
To speed up the Achilles tendon surgery recovery process, you may have to use a cane or crutches as support while walking. These devices work great to reduce strain and stress on your affected ankle. You should never put more weight on your ankle than your doctor has advised. You can rely on crutches and put more weight on them. Just be sure to learn how to use crutches or a cane properly.
4. Make Use of a Splint, Brace, or Cast
You may have to wear an ankle splint, brace, or cast after your surgery. This ensures that your ankle does not move excessively and continues to heal properly. Wearing a brace or cast may also greatly decrease your pain. If you are wearing a brace, ensure that it is in a comfortable fit. Ask your doctor about whether you can unlock your ankle brace while doing exercises. Always check the skin around the cast or splint regularly to ensure there are no red or sore areas. If your doctor has allowed you to take a bath, ensure that you do not get the cast or splint wet. Cover it with plastic trash bags for protection.
5. Wound Care
Along with taking other measures, it is equally important to pay attention to proper wound care to shorten your Achilles tendon surgery recovery. Here are some steps to take:
- Ensure that you do not remove the bandage covering your wound. Make certain that your bandage stays clean and dry.
- Wash your hands thoroughly before and after taking care of your wound.
- Ask your doctor about how often you should clean your wound.
- Leave any thin strips of tape in place and do not remove from the incision.
- Keep your stitches dry and clean. Never try to shorten the ends of your stitches by yourself.
When to See a Doctor
You should contact your doctor if you have any pain and swelling in your ankle, leg, or foot. Never ignore any swelling around your stitches, especially if you also notice pus coming from them. Moreover, you should seek immediate medical assistance if you have a fever, have chest pain, or your bandage becomes soaked with blood. See your doctor immediately if your cast breaks, your leg or foot feels numb, or you have trouble breathing.