Although the methods used to treat foot injuries vary, rehabilitation is always necessary after the initial treatment, to restore full movement and mobility to the foot and ankle and help the patient return to all usual activities. After the foot has healed from the initial treatment and patients can bear weight on the joint, a physical therapy regimen is implemented to strengthen muscles and increase mobility. Rehabilitation often takes three forms:
- Pain management to decrease discomfort
- Physical therapy to increase strength and mobility
- Occupational therapy to help perform day-to-day activities
Without proper rehabilitation, complications such as chronic pain, inflammation and weakness may cause difficulty walking and performing physical activities.
If the foot injury does not require surgery, it may be treated with a removable brace, and patients are typically advised not to put any weight on the foot for about 6 weeks. If necessary, a physical therapist will help the patient to walk safely using crutches, a walker, or other assistive device. Once the brace has been removed and patients can begin moving the foot and ankle, physical therapy and home exercise are extremely important for a full recovery. Physical therapy treatments may include:
- Muscle-strengthening exercises
- Gradual weight-bearing activities
- Range-of-motion exercises
- Balance training
A physical therapist may create a tailored treatment plan, based on the patient‘s physical job requirements or athletic activities. Recovery times vary for each patient, depending on the severity of the injury.
Rehabilitation After Surgery
Rehabilitation after surgery is often a slow and cautious process. After surgery, the foot is put in a cast or set in a brace for about 6 weeks. A physical therapist works with the patient to make sure that he or she is using crutches safely. The patient may not be able to bear weight on the ankle for up to 12 weeks. Initial physical therapy treatments may focus on controlling pain and swelling with the use of ice or electrical stimulation treatments. Massage may also be used to ease muscle pain.
Physical therapy exercise treatments focus on improving range of motion without putting excessive strain on the healing bone or ligaments. As healing progresses, muscle-stengthening exercises, range-of-motion exercises and balance training may all be used to increase movement and mobility. Full recovery after surgery may take up to 6 months.