Are you worried about pain, bruising, and a swollen foot after knee surgery? But rest assured, these are some mild effects of surgery. These conditions are normal and are signs of recovery. In fact, many people experience rapid recovery after initial pain and swelling.
In any case, there are natural ways to manage a swollen foot after surgery and ease the recovery process. As part of this guide, I’ve listed a few steps on managing the swollen foot after knee surgery. Keep reading to find out.
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Swollen Foot After Knee Surgery
Swelling in the leg, foot, or knee following a knee replacement is primarily caused by fluid building up in the soft tissues.
After surgery, swelling is a normal part of the recovery process. This is because of post-surgical inflammation and edema. Edema is the accumulation of fluid in the bodily tissue. In particular, edema occurs most often in the feet, ankles, hands, legs, and arms after surgery.
As a result of the surgical process, some damage happens to the tissue. Your body tries to heal this. And inflammation is the first step of this recovery.
Inflammation is controlled by various chemicals called cytokines. Cytokines can make your blood vessels leaky. This brings out fluid with various proteins and cells from the blood vessels to the tissue. This fluid accumulates in the soft tissue. And this is what causes the edema.
Your feet are the lowest part of your body. So, it’s natural that more fluid comes down to the ankles due to gravity.
How to reduce leg swelling after surgery
‘How do I reduce swelling in my feet after knee surgery?’ is a common question that surgeons have to face. So they provide some drugs to prevent swelling and pain after surgery. Besides, the following are a few methods to help with the swelling after knee replacement quickly.
Take plenty of rest
Health experts recommend complete bed rest after surgery. Avoid heavy walking during this bed rest period. Because it can cause strain to the affected area. Therefore, it is necessary to stop regular activities for at least the first few days following surgery. This will help reduce swelling and improve healing.
Wear Compression Stockings After the Surgery
Another helpful way to reduce swelling after ankle replacement is the use of compression stockings. These can reduce swelling in the ankles, feet, and lower legs. Compression stockings can also prevent fluid from building up in affected tissues.
These stockings come in a variety of compression levels. Your doctor will determine which is the best compression level for you.
Lay Down and Elevate the Leg Above the Level of the Heart
Elevating the surgical leg above the level of the heart contributes to reducing the swollen foot after surgery. As a rule, legs should be elevated while seated or reclining, so excess fluid does not collect around the damaged area.
This elevation has another positive side. After a leg injury, you are more likely to develop a dangerous blood clot. And this elevation can help prevent that. Prop up injured areas while sleeping with soft pillows.
Exercise for a Swollen Knee After Knee Surgery
Mild exercise after knee replacement is important to avoid swelling, fluid retention and accelerate the recovery from surgery. The question is, what exercises are best after knee surgery? After surgery, avoid weight lifting and high-intensity exercise. And these exercises should be after the recommended bed rest period by your doctor.
The following are some mild exercises you can do at home after knee surgery:
- Ankle Pumps
- Heel Slides
- Sitting Assisted Knee Bend
- Knee Press
- Straight Leg Raise
- Heel Raises
- Standing Hip Bending
- Sitting Knee Extension
- Standing Hip Extension
- Standing Terminal Knee Extension
- Standing Hip Abduction
- Standing Knee Bending
Use Ice Packs on Your Knees
You can try using ice packs to reduce inflammation. Ice packs can make your blood vessels contract. And the less blood that flows in, the less the edema. Ice packs can also slow cellular metabolism. To deliver cold to a particular part of the body, you can use cold packs, ice baths, cryotherapy chambers, or ice baths.
In the first few days after an injury, apply ice every 10 to 20 minutes. Don’t apply ice directly to the affected area; wrap it in a thin cloth.
Do Ankle Pump
Ankle pump is a simple and most effective exercise to reduce swelling at home. Indeed, this helps in the regulation of blood circulation and prevents blood clots in the legs. By moving the ankle, the calf muscles help to decrease swelling and prevent deep vein thrombosis.
It is perfect for doing anything anytime, anywhere while lying on the bed or even on the floor. Also, it does not require any equipment. Check out this step-by-step process.
- Put your feet out in front of you while lying down or sitting on a firm bed.
- Put your feet as far away from your knees as possible.
- Point your toes down while you pull your toes up toward your head.
- Do this 30 times, three times a day.
You can perform the exercise with both ankles simultaneously or separately.
There is no need to change your normal diet. If you feel queasy, try plain rice, toast, broiled chicken, or yogurt. These foods are low in fat and are anti-inflammatory. Make sure you drink enough water unless your doctor says otherwise.
Below is the list of anti-inflammatory foods that help to reduce a swollen foot after knee surgery.
How Long Does It Take for Swelling to Go Down After Knee Surgery?
The swelling following knee surgery may last up to three weeks. Then it gradually subsides. In some instances, swelling may persist for 3 to 6 months. However, you can ease the pain and swelling with medicines or home remedies.
If the swelling is too much or too painful, it can be due to other abnormal causes. Therefore, it is recommended to visit your physician, or a rehabilitation center, frequently to prevent future complications. An experienced physiotherapist can also help you to recover faster from symptoms.
Leg Swelling Years After Surgery
It is possible that swelling may occur up to six months after knee replacement. However, if it occurs longer than that, it might be a medical emergency. So you should visit your surgeon right away. Post-operative swelling years after surgery may indicate the following medical conditions:
- Prosthetic joint infection
- Deep vein thrombosis
Prosthetic joint infections can occur immediately after surgery, weeks/months later, or even years later. Prosthetic joints that are infected require radiological and blood examinations, as well as revision surgery.
Following are the symptoms that indicate swelling is due to prosthetic joint infection.
- Fluid formation
- Fluid discharge
Besides infection, deep vein thrombosis may also result in a swollen foot. A blood clot forms in the veins of the legs, causing this condition. Vein thrombosis is a significant side effect after knee replacement. To avoid this condition, doctors advise you to do ankle pumps frequently and start moving asap.
These symptoms suggest thrombosis is the cause of your swelling:
- Pain that throbs or cramps
- Warmth around the affected area
- Swollen veins that hurt when touched
- Discoloration or redness
Patients are usually prescribed certain medicines and drugs to avoid these conditions. For instance, blood-thinning medicines such as enoxaparin or aspirin are used to reduce the chance of blood clotting. Moreover, compression stockings are also used to prevent the chances of clot formation and fluid retention.
How to Reduce Swelling After ACL Surgery?
The anterior cruciate ligament is an important ligament supporting the knee joint. So, if it gets damaged, replacement is the best option in most cases.
ACL reconstruction surgery is the grafting of a damaged ligament with a new one. This surgery may cause tiredness, numbness, or swelling around the knees and legs. These symptoms may go away on their own, and you’ll see improvement.
How long it takes to recover fully depends on your rehab program and strategy to heal. The following factors will help you recover from the swelling after ACL surgery.
- Try to walk a little as soon as possible.
- Take bed rest when you’re tired.
- Use ice packs or cold compression after 10 to 20 minutes.
- Keep your legs elevated above the level of your heart.
- Don’t do any strenuous activity.
- Eat an anti-inflammatory diet.
- Take medicines on the prescription of the surgeon.
- Take care of your wound. Keep your bandage dry and clean.
Fluid Retention in Leg After Knee Surgery
Fluid retention after surgery affects almost every patient after surgery. As you’ve read, this condition is edema. In the case of edema, the fluid becomes trapped in bodily tissue, particularly in the legs, feet, and ankle.
This condition leads to painful swelling, and you may notice one leg is bigger than the other. Edema may occur due to tissue death, circulatory problems, weight gain, kidney dysfunction, or IV fluid given during surgery.
To lower the symptoms of edema, you can follow the following tips.
- Lower the intake of salt
- Use diuretics if your doctor prescribes
- Stop the use of alcohol and narcotics
- Use support stocking
- Take prescription medicines
- Exercise regularly
- Avoid dehydrating drinks (tea, coffee).
Immediate Contact Doctor
While swelling is natural after surgery, it is important to inform your doctor to avoid complications. You should seek medical attention immediately if any of the following conditions occur after surgery.
- Loss of consciousness
- Trouble breathing
- Chest pain & shortness of breath
- Numbing and tingling in legs and feet
- Skin becomes pale, bluish, greenish, or yellowish in the affected area
- Symptoms of blood clots — redness or swelling in legs or groin, pain in calf, legs, foot, groin)
- Stomach sickness (you can’t keep fluids down)
- Taking painkillers doesn’t work to relieve pain
- Loose stitches
- Incisions become visible
- Bleeding from the incision
- Symptoms of infection — redness, warmth, severe pain, pus drainage, red streaks, fever
Dos and Don’ts After Knee Surgery
After knee surgery, you will probably experience some pain and challenges during recovery. Even if it seems difficult now, your actions after surgery are as crucial as the surgery itself.
The following are the few dos and don’ts after surgery:
- Follow your doctor’s directions carefully after surgery.
- You must take rehabilitation seriously
- Make use of ice and heat packs
- Strive to maintain your healthiest self
- Don’t put too much strain on your knee
- During your recovery, don’t schedule another surgical procedure
- Never give up!
Fast-Healing Foods to Eat After Surgery
Nutrition is another important factor in improving the recovery speed of surgery. You need to consume a diet that is anti-inflammatory, nutrient-dense, and therapeutic. As a result, nutrition contributes to a smooth transition from the hospital to home.
Following is the complete list of foods option that can be helpful during your recovery period:
- Fruits (pomegranates, grapes, oranges, apples, melon, peaches, apricot, papaya, tomatoes, mango)
- Berries (blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, goji berries)
- Vegetables (carrot, bell peppers, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, potatoes)
- Nuts and seeds
- Oils (olive oil, coconut oil)
- Dark leafy greens (spinach, swiss chard, kale, mustard greens, bok choy, romaine lettuce)
- Beans and lentils
- Iron and protein
- Probiotics (kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt)
- Whole grains (quinoa, whole wheat, rye sourdough bread, wild rice, steel-cut oats)
Food to Avoid After Knee Surgery
Food can be a medicine or poisonous to you. No doubt, you may crave some sweet or spice after surgery, but these can deprive your body of essential nutrients and may slow down your healing process.
Here is the list of food categories you should avoid to prevent infection and complications:
- Food and drinks with added sugar
- Carbonated drinks
- Highly processed food
- Dehydrating food
- Alcohol and pain pills may be deadly for you
Swollen foot after knee surgery might cause you some concern. But now you know that this is a part of the healing process. In most cases, it will go away on its own in a couple of weeks. Moreover, medications, lifestyle changes, and a good diet may help you to improve these side effects quickly.
It is important to follow all the guidelines provided by your surgeon to heal faster. After recovery from knee surgery, you can welcome a swift-moving life!
Why is my knee so tight after surgery?
Arthrofibrosis is a fibrotic joint condition that develops when a knee or joint has been damaged. This can happen after surgery too. It causes scar tissue formation with collagen deposition which can lead to stiffness of the knees.
How long should I ice after ACL surgery?
Icing the wound within 24 hours of surgery helps to reduce the swelling and pain. It is advisable to ice the affected area for 10 to 20 minutes after every 1 to 2 hours. Make sure to use ice wrap in a piece of cloth. It not only lowers the swelling but also improves the healing process.
Is it normal to have a lot of bruising after knee replacement surgery?
Bruising after knee replacement surgery is normal, and you don’t need to be alarmed by it. It will go away on its own, as the body will be able to reabsorb the blood. Besides bruising, some people may experience small blisters around the incision, wound, or knee.
How to walk after knee surgery?
When your surgery is done, it is recommended to avoid putting stress and strain on your legs. For easy walking, try to use crutches, a cane, or a walker at home or outside. Your doctor or therapist can recommend you the best walking support.
To avoid walking with a limp, use a heel-toe pattern. You can gradually increase your distance and level of effort until you can walk without pain or limits.
What causes swelling in the knees and legs after surgery?
A swollen foot after knee surgery is the post-operative effect. It could be caused by edema which is the influx of fluid into the affected area. This is a part of the normal healing process.