Bouncing Back From Arthritis

Recognized as the leading cause of disability in the US, arthritis can occur in any joint in the body. While most people associate the degenerative condition with the hands, knees, and hips, some individuals also experience discomfort from the disease in the ankles. Many arthritis sufferers can manage the condition with over-the-counter (OTC) medications. However, other people may need more advanced interventions, such as ankle fusion surgery.


Fusing the ankle

Ankle fusion surgery is a medical treatment in which a surgeon removes the surface of bones impacted by arthritis. The affected bones are joined by plates and screws, assisting the material in growing together. While the solution is effective at treating joint pain, reduced range of motion (ROM) is common in patients undergoing surgery. As a result, physical therapy (PT) is strongly recommended to improve gait and mobility, as well as prevent arthritis from spreading to nearby joints. The physical therapist may suggest some of the following exercises.

Swimming to reduce discomfort

Improving the ROM after ankle fusion surgery is critical to ensure that a person can walk properly and doesn’t experience a reduced quality of life. Swimming is an exercise that’s low impact but still helps to strengthen the joint and improve mobility.

Toe raises

Simple exercises are best in the beginning. Toe raises help to strengthen the muscles in the foot. Begin by rising on both toes initially. As treatment progresses, patients can graduate to single-toe raises.


Another low-impact activity that strengthens the legs and ankles is the use of therabands to perform resistance exercises. Start by placing a band around an immobile object such as a table or couch leg. The other end of the band should be placed over the foot. Pull against the band, creating resistance, and move the foot inward. Repeat the process, moving the foot in the opposite direction. Complete at least 20 repetitions on the affected food twice daily for best results.

Balancing exercises

Since ankle fusion surgery can impact gait while walking, improving balance is critical. Start with basic exercises such as balancing on the foot and holding the position as long as possible. Continue to increase the amount of time spent on a single leg. Likewise, practice heel-toe walking as if on a balance beam or tight rope but on the ground.

Recover smarter

A trained professional can assist recovering individuals in learning how to walk properly while maintaining balance after surgery. Additionally, a physical therapist can provide informed guidance on when a recovering patient can begin incorporating more high-impact activities such as jogging and running. A smooth recovery from subtalar fusion is possible with a commitment to physical therapy exercises after surgery.

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