Are you or someone you know getting ready for ankle replacement surgery? Ankle arthritis affects around 1 in 20 adults over 50 years old, causing many to look for surgical solutions for pain relief and better mobility. Ankle replacement procedures are becoming more popular, with over 50,000 surgeries performed annually in the US alone. How can you prepare your home for the recovery period? What should you expect after the surgery? How can you make sure you have a hassle-free recovery process? And how long does the recovery usually take?

At Coastal Orthopedics, we understand that undergoing ankle replacement surgery is a significant step towards reclaiming a pain-free and active lifestyle. With the right information, you can go through recovery smoothly.

How to Prepare for Ankle Replacement Recovery

Ankle replacement, also known as total ankle arthroplasty, is an operation that relieves ankle pain. During this procedure, a surgeon removes part of the lower shinbone and the top of the foot’s highest bone, replacing them with artificial parts made of plastic or metal.

After the surgery, your leg might be in a cast, boot, or splint for around a month. Initially, you’ll need to keep weight off your leg, possibly using crutches, a walker, or a knee scooter for mobility. Your healthcare provider will advise on the right time to start bearing weight on your leg again.

Setting Up Your Recovery Environment

Once you have undergone ankle replacement surgery, you’ll need a  supportive environment that aids in your recovery. A conducive home environment can significantly contribute to a successful recovery and provide comfort and convenience during the healing process. To optimize your recovery space, here are some recommendations: 

  • Arrange for Assistance: Seek help from friends, family, or professionals to assist with household chores and transportation to medical appointments. This support can help minimize unnecessary physical exertion.
  • Plan and Prepare Meals: Preparing easy-to-make meals and snacks in advance can save time and energy. Having nutritious food readily available promotes rest and facilitates healing. 
  • Stock Up on Essentials: Invest in essential items such as:
    • Non-slip bath mat
    • Compression socks
    • Heat pads
    • Ice packs
    • Massage tools

These aids can aid in recovery and alleviate discomfort

  • Select Comfortable Clothing and Footwear: Opt for loose-fitting clothing and slip-on shoes to enhance comfort during recovery. Garments with pockets and a convenient bag can simplify carrying items.
  • Install Assistive Devices: Install handrails, grab bars, and a shower bench to enhance safety and mobility. Consider acquiring an elevated toilet seat for added convenience.
  • Eliminate Tripping Hazards: Remove rugs, clutter, and electrical cords to create a safer environment for movement. Minimizing obstacles reduces the risk of accidents.
  • Create a Comfortable Recovery Area: Ensure that the bed and resting areas are comfortable and easily accessible. Keep essential items within reach to promote relaxation and convenience.

Your Recovery After Ankle Replacement Surgery

After ankle replacement surgery, you can expect a period of restricted weight-bearing and the use of assistive devices like crutches or a walker. It is important to prepare your home environment for ease of movement and accessibility during recovery. Follow your doctor’s instructions regarding wound care, medication, and rehabilitation exercises. 

Mild pain and swelling may persist, but diligent adherence to the rehabilitation program will aid in recovery. Inform healthcare professionals about your artificial ankle for ongoing care. Each person’s recovery timeline varies based on factors like condition severity, surgery complexity, and overall health, taking up to a year. Initially, assistive devices like crutches are needed, followed by a removable boot. 

Rest is important, and gradually increasing activity levels is recommended. Most resume daily activities within 3-4 months, while strenuous activities may take longer. Some may qualify for fast-track protocols, allowing immediate weight-bearing and mobilization, depending on factors like bone quality and body mass index.

Here are strategies you can employ to speed up the recovery process:

Follow Your Doctor’s Instructions

Each ankle replacement case is different, which means that a personalized recovery plan is necessary. Working together with your doctor after the procedure is crucial in developing a customized recovery strategy. This plan may provide instructions on weight-bearing when to begin physical therapy, and when to resume daily activities. It is critical to follow the professional guidance provided to ensure a successful recovery experience.

Physical Therapy

Your healthcare provider will suggest certain exercises that can help improve joint mobility and strength. It’s a good idea to become familiar with these exercises before your surgery to help speed up your recovery process and make it more effective.

In addition, participating in physical therapy sessions can also aid in your recovery. Regular visits to physical therapy have been linked to improved physical function, highlighting the significance of this aspect in the rehabilitation journey.

At-Home Tips for Ankle Replacement Recovery

In addition to following your doctor’s recommendations, there are several at-home measures you can take to support your recovery:

Incision Care

It is important to follow your doctor’s instructions if you have a splint or cast. You should keep it dry at all times and avoid placing anything between it and your skin. It is recommended to leave the tape on the incision for a week or until it falls off. In the meantime, you should keep the area clean and dry. Your doctor will provide guidance on when it is appropriate to remove the stitches, if necessary.


Follow your doctor’s instructions for medication. Read and adhere to label instructions, store medication securely, dispose of unused medication properly, and complete any prescribed antibiotics.

Ice and Elevation

Apply ice or a cold pack for 10 to 20 minutes at a time, using a cloth barrier between the ice and the skin. Elevate your ankle above heart level when resting to reduce swelling.


When you are tired, rest and avoid putting weight on your ankle until your doctor gives the all-clear. Follow your doctor’s instructions regarding showering and bathing, ensuring dressings and incisions stay dry. Inquire about driving restrictions and plan for adequate time off work based on your recovery progress.


Maintain your normal diet unless directed otherwise by your doctor. Consider bland, low-fat foods if you are experiencing stomach upset. Stay hydrated and address any post-surgery constipation with the recommended remedies.

Here are some tips for a healthy diet:

  • Eat lean protein like chicken, fish, and legumes for muscle recovery.
  • Choose colorful fruits and vegetables for vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
  • Eat whole grains for fiber and sustained energy.
  • Consume healthy fats like avocados and nuts for anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Get calcium and vitamin D from dairy or dairy alternatives.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish and nuts can reduce inflammation and promote heart health.


In order to regain motion and strength, it’s important to consistently and accurately carry out the ankle rehabilitation exercises that your doctor and physical therapist have recommended. Low impact and less strenuous exercises or stretches may be best in the beginning. Your doctor or physical therapist should provide a list of exercises you can do to strengthen your ankle while at home. 

When Should You Contact Your Doctor?

While ankle replacement surgery has a high success rate, it’s essential to be vigilant for any signs of complications. Contact your doctor immediately if you experience:

  • A sudden increase in pain or swelling
  • Fever or warmth around the surgical site
  • Drainage or unusual discharge from the incision
  • Difficulty walking or sudden loss of mobility

Recovering from ankle replacement surgery requires patience, dedication, and a commitment to following your healthcare provider’s instructions. If you have any questions or concerns about your recovery, don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment with Coastal Orthopedics today.