Managing Swollen Ankles and Swollen Feet After Surgery

July 8, 2024
Swollen ankles and feet after surgery are common, and managing them is crucial for a smooth recovery. Effective strategies include getting adequate rest, elevating the affected area, applying ice packs, wearing loose clothing, and using compression socks as recommended. Taking prescribed medications and avoiding smoking and alcohol also help reduce post-surgical swelling. Following these tips can speed up the healing process, improve mobility, and enhance overall comfort.

Swollen ankles and swollen feet after surgery are common and can occur for various reasons. Understanding how to manage this is essential for a smooth recovery and overall comfort. Here’s a guide on why ankles swell, the importance of managing swollen ankles after surgery, and effective strategies to reduce swollen feet after surgery or injury.

Man at orthopaedic doctor's office on table with foot out, wrapped, with swollen ankles

What Causes Swollen Ankles and Swollen Feet?

Swollen ankles and swollen feet can result from several factors, such as:

  • Injury: Sprains, fractures, or other trauma can cause inflammation and swelling.
  • Surgery: Procedures on the ankle or foot often lead to post-operative swelling, resulting in swollen ankles after surgery and swollen feet after surgery.
  • Prolonged Standing or Sitting: Long periods without movement can cause fluid buildup in your lower extremities.
  • Medical Conditions: Conditions like heart failure, kidney disease, or venous insufficiency can also lead to swelling.

Swollen Ankles After Surgery

Managing swollen ankles after surgery and swollen feet after surgery is crucial for several reasons:

  • Faster Recovery: Reducing swelling can speed up the healing process.
  • Improved Mobility: Less swelling can make moving around easier and more comfortable.
  • Enhanced Comfort: Managing swelling reduces pain and discomfort.

Tips to Reduce Swollen Ankles and Swollen Feet

Here are strategies to help reduce swollen ankles after surgery and swollen feet after surgery:

Prioritize Rest

Rest is vital for healing. While you sleep, your body releases hormones that promote recovery. Aim for 8 hours of restful sleep each night to boost your body’s natural healing processes and reduce swollen ankles after surgery.

Elevate the Ankle and Foot

Elevating the affected area helps reduce swelling by aiding blood return to the heart against gravity. Prop your foot up on pillows or cushions so that it is above heart level. Follow your provider’s instructions on how often and how long to elevate your leg to reduce swollen feet after surgery.

Apply Ice Packs

Cryotherapy, or applying ice packs, is effective in the first few days post-surgery. Your physician may recommend using a cold compress several times a day with one-hour gaps between treatments. Avoid using hot compresses, as they can increase swelling. Avoid the ice pack having direct contact with your skin by wrapping it in a cloth as you apply it for 20 minutes at a time to help manage swollen ankles after surgery.

Wear Loose Clothing

Choose comfortable, loose-fitting clothing that is easy to put on and does not constrict the affected area. Avoid tight clothing around the surgical site unless your physician advises otherwise. Compression socks may be recommended to promote circulation and reduce swollen feet after surgery. Opt for clothing like loose sweatpants, oversized socks, and soft fabrics to prevent irritation.

Use Compression Socks

Compression socks are specifically designed to improve blood circulation and reduce swelling. These specialized socks apply gentle pressure to your lower legs, helping to move blood back up to your heart. If your healthcare provider recommends wearing these socks, follow their guidelines, which may include wearing them during the day and removing them at night to manage swollen ankles after surgery.

Take Prescribed Medications

Your physician may prescribe anti-inflammatory or pain medications. Take them as directed to manage pain and reduce inflammation. If using over-the-counter medications, consult your doctor to avoid potential complications. Common medications include ibuprofen for inflammation and acetaminophen for pain, which can help manage swollen feet after surgery.

Avoid Smoking and Alcohol

Both smoking and alcohol can impair circulation and should be avoided during recovery. Additionally, do not consume alcohol if contraindicated with your prescribed medications. Smoking can also delay healing and increase the risk of complications, which can exacerbate swollen ankles after surgery.

Learn About ONJ's Foot and Ankle Specialists

Foot model with doctor pointing to ankle discussing swollen ankles.

Other Common Causes of Swollen Ankles and Swollen Feet

In addition to post-surgery swelling, here are other common causes and management tips:


Injuries such as sprains, fractures, or other trauma to the ankle or foot can lead to significant swelling. When the body sustains an injury, it responds with inflammation to protect and begin the healing process. This inflammation often results in swollen ankles or feet, which can be managed with methods like rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE). Prompt medical attention is crucial for severe injuries to ensure proper healing and to minimize long-term complications.

  • Sprains and Fractures: Follow the RICE method – Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation.
  • Medical Attention: Seek professional help for severe injuries to address a swollen ankle properly and rule out more serious injuries.

Prolonged Standing or Sitting

Prolonged periods of standing or sitting can cause fluid buildup in the lower extremities, leading to swollen ankles and feet. This occurs because the blood flow slows down and struggles to return to the heart against gravity. Taking regular breaks to walk around and stretch, along with wearing supportive footwear, can help prevent this type of swelling. Simple lifestyle adjustments can significantly reduce discomfort and promote better circulation.

  • Movement: Take breaks to walk around and stretch to avoid puffy ankles.
  • Supportive Footwear: Wear shoes with good support and cushioning to prevent swollen feet.

Medical Conditions

Various medical conditions can contribute to swollen ankles and feet. Conditions such as heart failure, kidney disease, and venous insufficiency impede the body’s ability to manage fluid balance and circulation effectively. Managing these underlying conditions through proper medical care and lifestyle modifications is essential in preventing swelling. Using compression stockings and elevating the legs can also provide relief and improve circulation.

  • Heart or Kidney Issues: Follow your doctor’s advice and manage underlying conditions to avoid bloated ankles.
  • Venous Insufficiency: Use compression stockings as recommended and elevate your legs when possible to reduce swollen ankles.

Find an Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Specialist

If you experience chronic pain or swelling in your ankles, puffy ankles, or swollen feet, contact us today to schedule an appointment with one of our specialists. If you are experiencing this post-surgery please reach out immediately. With six divisions spanning from northern NJ to southern, there's always an ONJ nearby to help you navigate your recovery process and achieve optimal health.

Contact one of our ONJ divisions to schedule an appointment.

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