After having surgery on your foot, you will need time for the foot to heal, and keeping weight off your feet will be an important part of the recovery process. The surgeon will instruct you to rest the foot as much as possible because the bone and/or tissue need time to mend. It also gives any placed hardware such as plates or screws a chance to remain in the proper position until the surrounding areas have adjusted to it.
What Is a Weight-Bearing Restriction?
Foot surgery patients will be given weight-bearing restrictions for recovery. These restrictions describe and limit the amount of weight you can place on your foot while it’s healing. Your doctor will instruct you about this, giving you precise information about your specific condition. Weight-bearing guidelines include:
If you have a non-weight-bearing (NWB) order from your doctor, it means that zero weight can be placed on the foot. This is the most restrictive limitation, and you will likely need to use a wheelchair, walker, or crutches to get around. When using these devices, try to keep your knee bent, so your toes never touch the ground. If you have a NWB order, even the smallest bit of weight on the foot can cause complications.
If you receive a toe-touch weight-bearing order, only your toes on the affected foot should touch the ground during your recovery and only for keeping your balance. Just as if you received a NWB order, a toe-touch weight-bearing restriction will require that you use a walker or crutches.
If your doctor tells you to maintain partial weight-bearing following your surgery, it means you can place approximately half of your usual weight on the affected foot. It may seem difficult to gauge how much is considered “half,” but a scale can help you understand how much pressure you are placing on your foot until you get used to the feeling of the right amount on your own.
If your doctor says you can bear full weight on your foot after surgery, you have no weight restrictions. You will not be prescribed an assistive device, and you can carry on as normal soon after the surgery. This is usually a rare outcome for foot surgery, and you can still benefit by using a cane or a walker for a time if walking normally is painful.
The Consequences of Bearing Weight Too Soon
Weight-bearing instructions are important to follow, so you don’t cause further injury or reverse any progress from the surgery. If you should slip and fall or trip while trying to walk, you are likely to place weight on your foot without meaning to. It’s critical to follow guidelines as closely as possible in order for your foot to heal fully and correctly.
If you haven’t been consistent in following your weight-bearing instructions and are concerned you may have done damage, you can do a self-assessment. Check to see if you are:
- Experiencing increased pain in your foot
- Noticing an increase in redness or swelling in your foot
- Experiencing difficulty moving around and feeling pain
Consult a physician if you’re worried something’s not right. Ignoring your weight-bearing instructions too frequently could cause serious issues, including possibly needing corrective surgery.
Are You Looking for Foot Care in Austin, TX?
If you are looking for foot care, you should reach out to an experienced podiatrist. Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists can help. Our office provides a wide variety of advanced, effective treatment options for all kinds of painful conditions. Ready to schedule an appointment? Contact us online or call our Austin office at 512.328.8900.