Foot Pain After Surgery

By Carissa Aquino PT, DPT, ATC/L

Common Causes of Foot Pain After Surgery

Experiencing pain after any type of foot surgery is common and expected. Depending on whether it is muscles, bones or soft tissue structures that are involved with the surgery, your body will need to take time to heal. This healing process is instrumental for a full recovery.

Foot pain after surgery is common. JOI Rehab

Foot Pain After Surgery

3 Common Causes for Foot Pain Post-Surgery

Here is a list of what can occur and common causes for pain after foot surgery:

1. Inflammation

This is the first stage of healing and often characterized by pain and redness around the area. The redness is due to an increase of blood flow to the area. This carries important “cleaner” cells that help to get rid of any tissue with damage. This is done so that healthier tissue can be built and laid down later on.

2. Swelling

This is caused by an influx of cells that rush to the injured area to clean up all the damaged tissue and promote healing.

3. Scar tissue

Scar tissue commonly develops over the incision site. This tissue is made of up collagen that will quickly cover the incision in an effort to repair the area. If this is not appropriately mobilized within the correct time frame of healing, it can cause stiffness and pain. Speak with your surgeon or physical therapist on the best way to minimize scar tissue formation.

Foot Pain Relief

Depending on the type of surgery, your doctor will likely prescribe you with appropriate pain medications and given instructions on when to take them to alleviate the pain. Swelling in the feet is a common cause of foot pain after surgery due to gravity helping pool all the swelling in that area, especially in a standing or seated position. To remedy this, it is advised to elevate the leg to reduce the swelling. An ice pack may also be used to assist with the pain and redness. Cold therapy helps to constrict the blood vessels and offer some pain relief as well due to its numbing effects. After a discussion with your surgeon, it may also be a recommendation to perform a gentle scar massage around your incision to keep it mobile and reduce any joint restrictions in the future.

When To Worry Post-Surgery

The two most serious complications after surgery are: DVT and infection.

What is a DVT?

A DVT is a deep vein thrombosis, or a blood clot that can occur in the lower legs. You will likely go through a proper screening before and after surgery to ensure this doesn’t occur. Symptoms often include swelling and pain in the lower leg. While this is uncommon , A prompt visit to the ER is a requirement if you suspect the formation of a blood clot.


Deep Vein Thrombosis or DVT Image

Are Infections causing your Foot Pain After Surgery?

Infections can also occur and often as a result of the open incision site that is still healing. It is important to always check your incision for any oozing, worsening redness, increased pain and discoloration. Those who have a history of any cardiovascular disease and diabetes are more likely to have an infection due to impaired healing function.

Post-surgery Pain vs. Pre- Surgery Pain

Pre-surgery pain and post-surgical pain can differ as your foot is in a different state of tissue injury. Pre-surgery pain will cause similar dysfunctions in that there’s pain with walking and standing because your foot is in a constant state of inflammation.

This is not the case post-surgically as your body is going through the different stages of healing. After the first stage of inflammation, the foot goes through what is called the proliferation phase. This is when new healthy connective tissue undergoes formation after all the tissue with damage goes through removal. Your foot pain should continue to improve as the weeks go by and your functional mobility improves. If you have any questions or concerns regarding your foot or regarding foot pain after surgery, it is always best to reach out to your surgeon.

Written By: Carissa Aquino PT, DPT, ATC/L

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