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Exercising After Bunion Surgery: Stop the Stiffness!

So you finally got rid of that bothersome bump. After your bunion surgery, your big toe joint can feel a little stiff and difficult to move. Not to worry though. Stiffness can be prevented by simple range-of-motion exercises. Incorporating these exercises into your daily routine can help expedite the healing process, as well as reduce painful adhesions, or scarring. In other words, exercising after bunion surgery can make your road to recovery a lot less, well, bumpy.

Physical therapy is an important aspect to any recovery. First Stop: Physical Therapy

Where should you begin? Well, we suggest the lake—Three Lakes Physical Therapy that is. There you’ll find licensed full-body physical therapists who can provide sport-specific rehabilitation, as well as the guidance you need to build a knowledge of affective stretching exercises. Before you head home, you’ll be armed with all kinds of information to help accelerate your healing process, and get you back to feeling like the days before that painful bump came into your life!

Start Slow

For the first couple weeks after surgery, though, it’s important to just rest and elevate your foot. By week three you can begin with mild stretching exercises. Grasp your big toe near the base joint and gently flex it upward until you feel some resistance. Hold it in that position for 10 seconds, then repeat 3 times. Next, flex it downward 3 times, holding for 10 seconds each time. Do this three times a day during the third and fourth week of recovery.

Gradually Increase

In the fifth and sixth weeks, you should continue the same range-of-motion exercise, but increase it to 6 times daily. Try to gradually use a little more force each day too, but only as tolerated. Flex only to the point of slight discomfort.

Step It Up

You’re doing great! Now in week seven you can start incorporating weight-bearing and gravity assisted exercises. Keeping your big toe on the ground, lift your heel up, using your body weight to flex the toe. If you can, stay like that and count to ten, then repeat several times. When you’re ready, walking uphill or up steps are excellent ways to increase flexibility even more.

Manipulation Is Good

Besides range-of-motion therapy, exercising after bunion surgery should include manipulation stretches as well. Holding your forefoot steady with one hand, use the other to pull your big toe sideways, then upward, then downward without ever bending it. Do three sets of each, holding for 10 seconds each time.

Keep It Moving

After you are fully recovered from surgery, keep your toes limber by lifting them straight up for 5 seconds, then curling them under for 5 more. In addition, try picking up marbles one at a time, then placing them in a bowl. You can also spread a towel on the floor in front of you, grasp it with your toes and pull it toward you. Repeat 5 times, then go for a walk on the beach. Walking on sand can strengthen your toes, plus you get the added benefit of a gentle foot massage!

If you are interested in learning more about exercising after bunion surgery, contact us at Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists. You can visit our Austin TX office, check us out online, or call (512) 328-8900 for an appointment. Dr. Craig H. Thomajan DPM, FACFAS and Dr. Shine John, DPM, FACFAS are happy share their expertise on the topic and will help you with any of your foot care needs. Now that you said good-bye to the bump, stop the stiffness! Start stretching that big toe today.

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Dr. Craig H. Thomajan, DPM, FACFAS, FAENS
Founder and Managing Partner of Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists