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Why Non-Weight Bearing Instructions Matter After Foot Surgery (And How To Cope)

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If a problem with one of your feet has you in agony and is limiting your life, you're probably more than ready to accept the idea of surgery if your doctor thinks that it will stop the pain and get you back your mobility. What you may not be ready to deal with, however, is the recovery period, especially if your surgeon has said that you need to be "non-weight bearing" for a while.

Your Surgeon Is Serious

Staying off that foot for the recovery time is important and your surgeon doesn't mean "mostly." You have to stay off it totally, for several reasons:

  1. You have no real idea how much weight you are actually putting down on your foot. If you want to test this, get a digital scale out and put just one foot down on it as lightly as possible. The figures will start racing up and down, because the slightest motion of your body is going to alter the amount of pressure that you're using on your foot.
  2. Your surgeon is likely to prescribe some pain medication for the first few days after surgery. You could damage your foot, badly, because of the pain medication you're on and not realize it.
  3. When you put your foot on the ground, the force of it generates pressure in a variety of directions at once: up, down, backward, forward, and rotational. This pressure is going to buck up against the bones and any hardware, like pins or screws, that have been put in your foot. Even mild pressure can cause the hardware to move out of place or snap a small bone.

So, how do you cope with the sudden restrictions on your activity? There are several things you can do.

Rest In Your Nest

Pick a spot in your house that you're comfortable sitting in, and declare it your temporary "nest". Prior to surgery, stack up a lot of books, magazines, DVDs, or whatever you're interested in that you can look at or do while sitting there. Get a basket and stock it with lotion, lip balm, nail files, tissue, wipes, pen, paper, and anything else you think you may want. Put some spare pillows and blankets in reach, and make sure that your laptop, cellphone, and chargers are handy.

Ditch The Crutches

Ask your doctor, like those at Laurel Podiatry Associates, about a knee walker, instead of crutches. Crutches can be difficult to use, and require more skill than most people realize to manipulate correctly. They can also be painful, and cause blisters under arms and on hands.

Knee walkers or scooters can make recovery much easier, and get you moving faster. They're easier to stabilize on, and because your knee is resting at all times on the walker, you don't have to worry about accidentally putting your foot on the ground. They also don't require a lot of arm strength, which crutches do. 

Most of all, don't let the "non-weight bearing" time period get you down and depressed. It'll be over eventually, and the results (long-term pain relief and increased mobility now that your foot problem is fixed) are worth it!