Best Way to Elevate Your Foot and Leg After Surgery

Elevating feet for at least a week is recommended to reduce swelling after surgery. Whether you went through a surgery to help alleviate the knee pain resulting from a torn ACL or it was some other foot or broken ankle surgery, the swelling as a result of that surgery is not going away on its own. In their haste to resume normal life functions, patients often fail to pay attention to their doctor’s advice pertaining to proper post-op care.

Unfortunately, elevating legs for recovery is not so simple as propping your legs up on a few pillows. In fact, the wrong elevation angles can do more harm than good, which is why we have compiled expert advice to bring to you some of the facts surrounding the right ways to elevate your leg and feet after the surgery.

Best Way to Elevate Leg and Foot After Surgery

Simply elevating your legs by casually resting them on your coffee table won’t do the trick for a quick recovery after surgery. There are quite a few post surgery essentials on the do’s and don’ts of leg elevation you should be diligently following.

First and foremost, you must lie on your back. Sitting in a reclined position takes away your chance at utilizing gravity in aiding blood flow.

Also essential is maintaining the angle at which the leg is propped up. What you need is to elevate your legs above the heart so that gravity can naturally enable your body to improve blood flow.

Generally an elevation of around 6 inches and more above the heart is considered ideal. Though straining your muscles to keep your legs straight might feel like a good idea, it however is something you should definitely avoid post surgery. What you need to do instead is bend your knees with thighs tilted at around 45 degrees, while your lower leg rests at 15-20 degrees.

On the contrary, you can simply skip through all this formidable information, and get some leg elevation aid like one of those remarkably crafted leg elevation pillows (available on Amazon) instead, which are designed to keep your legs elevated in the right position.

best way to elevate foot after surgery

Why is it Important to Elevate Feet and Leg After Surgery?

Ever wondered why your doctor let you off with a whole list of post-op leg elevation reminders right after your foot or a total knee replacement surgery? Or why exactly are those ergonomically designed contoured leg rest pillows so in demand these days by patients recovering from surgeries?

Apart from the obvious reason of preventing your injury from receiving further trauma, the science behind elevating your feet is fairly simple, with gravity playing the leading role.

You see, your blood supplies essential nutrients to the various cells within your body. These nutrients are essential in allowing your body to heal naturally. You therefore need to ensure that your body’s blood circulation is not hindered in any way; which, as a matter of fact, it is when you stand, sit or fail to elevate your legs properly.

While sitting or standing exerts pressure on your veins to work against gravity to ensure even blood circulation, elevating your legs enables gravity to work in your favor instead. Considering how inefficient blood circulation can result in painful swelling within your leg caused by the accumulation of fluids containing the essential nutrients, elevating your legs properly becomes a necessity.

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a life threatening condition that is caused as a result of the formation of clots within your blood vessels, following the swelling within your leg. You therefore need to take every possible precaution to properly elevate your legs and subsequently prevent them from swelling.

How long do you need to elevate your leg after knee surgery?

When recovering from ACL reconstruction surgery,  you are required to keep your legs elevated in order to ensure unhindered blood circulation throughout the body. The first few days after the surgery are crucial, since that is when the swelling normally occurs.

You will need to keep your legs constantly elevated for around 3-5 days after your knee surgery. In case the swelling in your legs persists for longer, you might need to keep your legs elevated for longer. Remember to keep your knees bent while your legs are propped up at least 12 inches above your heart.

How long should you elevate your feet?

There is no hard and fast rule governing the amount of time you should be spending with your legs elevated. It generally depends on the kind of surgery you went through and the amount of time your legs take in healing. People with certain medical histories such as diabetes generally heal slower than others and would require more time spent in elevating their feet after their knee or foot surgery than a non-diabteic person might need.

The first 2-3 days when recovering from ankle surgery extremely critical, because that is when your body requires immediate supply of nutrients to begin with the healing process. In case poor blood circulation hinders the nutrients supply and the body fluid tends to accumulate in your body to cause swelling, your healing process would become even more slower.

Doctors therefore generally recommend keeping your foot constantly elevated for the first 2-3 days after operation. After that, the amount of elevation time depends on your individual condition. While you might not need prolonged leg elevation after the first few days, provided your swelling got slightly better, your doctor can suggest elevating your legs every few hours for around 30 minutes or so.

Should I elevate my leg after hip replacement?

Swelling almost always happens when you are recovering after a hip replacement surgery and would therefore require you to stay put. It is however upon you to prevent the swelling from getting dangerous by causing blood clots to form within your blood circulatory system.

Preventing swelling is genuinely simple; all you need to do is elevate your legs the right way to ensure that you recover soon from your hip replacement surgery.

While your legs should indeed be elevated several inches above your heart to ensure sufficient blood flow, an ice pack to reduce swelling in the affected areas will work like magic. Also having ankle pumps at your disposal will ensure that your muscles are actively pumped and stay active to reduce the chances of swelling.

Frequently Asked Questions

What happens if you don’t elevate your foot after surgery?

A major part of recovering from your surgery is to prevent the affected area from experiencing further trauma. This is precisely why you shall find the majority of your post-op time spent lying down and resting instead of moving around.

Staying in bed for longer duration can affect blood circulation, where your veins will have to work against gravity to ensure even supply of blood across your body. The inefficient supply of nutrients throughout the body will cause the rehabilitation time to extend and result in a slower healing process.

Secondly, the fluid within your body can start accumulating in a certain area with poor blood circulation and thereby cause painful swelling. As if dealing with the pain and discomfort of swollen feet wasn’t enough, you also run the risk of developing deep vein thrombosis; a condition that results from the formation of clot within one of your deep veins and can significantly impact your heart. If by any chance the same clot travels to your respiratory system, it can end up collapsing your lungs as well.

However, elevating your legs properly can prevent the undesirable swelling from happening and thus eliminates the risk of experiencing such complications.

How long should you elevate your foot after surgery?

Post bunion surgery recovery process is genuinely going to take its time, but you can reduce the healing time by properly elevating your legs.

The first week is immensely critical, and requires you to be extremely vigilant in ensuring proper leg elevation. For the first week, and especially the first three days, you will be required to elevate your legs constantly. Failure to do so not only increases the recovery time but also places your feet at risk.

The second week would have you longing for a normal lifestyle involving being back on your feet. You should, however, take things easy and continue to elevate your legs to prevent swelling. The elevation time, on the other hand, can be decreased with the recommendation of your doctor. The feet elevation should ideally continue well into the third week, where you elevate your legs for a brief period of time every few hours to keep the swelling at bay.

Can you elevate your legs all night?

You can most definitely elevate your legs throughout the night to experience some of the remarkable benefits of leg elevation to reduce the swelling. All you shall need to do is prop your legs up, higher than the level of your heart, using the help of a few pillows or a specially designed leg elevation aid. Doing so enables your spine to assume its natural alignment and promotes the efficient circulation of blood within your body, allowing you to sleep comfortable through the night.

How can I reduce swelling in my legs after knee surgery?

Your knee pain isn’t going to vanish all on its own after your knee surgery. Experiencing a certain degree of swelling within your legs is pretty normal and expected, however the time it takes to heal depends on how efficient you were at controlling the swelling.

The RICE method, rest, ice, compression and elevate, is genuinely recommended. In order to deal with the post surgery swelling, the most important thing is to prevent the affected leg from experiencing additional pressure, therefore walking is most definitely out of question for the next week or more. Additionally, certain compression socks can be worn to help improve your blood flow.

You would need to improve your blood supply to the affected areas in your body by allowing gravity to aid your veins in circulating blood throughout your cardiovascular system. You can do so by elevating your leg above the level of your heart, by using pillows to prop your legs up.

You would also need to keep your knees bent instead of straightening them. For a week or so, the elevation should continue for the entire length of the day, after which the time can be gradually reduced.

Moreover, certain over-the-counter medications (prescribed by your doctor) can also help speed up the recovery. Icing the swollen region has been known to help reduce swelling and ensure that the swelling doesn’t worsen with time. However, the ice pack should never be applied for more than 20 minutes on the affected knee.

Ankle pumps are another tried and tested way to reduce swelling. They involve pointing and subsequently flexing your feet to pump the leg muscles and keep them active.

Where does the fluid go when you elevate your legs?

Gravity tends not to be your best friend when it comes to preventing your legs from swelling up after surgery. While lying down, sitting or standing, it exerts a strong pull on the fluids within your cardiovascular system, and forces them to accumulate in your lower limbs to subsequently cause swelling.

Elevating your legs above the level of your heart utilizes the effect of gravity in your favor. It tends to help your body take away the body fluids within your lower limbs, back towards your upper body and core. This eventually prevents the body fluid from accumulating and ensures that it is distributed evenly throughout the body.

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