Physical Therapy After Bunion Surgery

Physical Therapy After Bunion Surgery

Table of Contents

Do you need physical therapy after bunion surgery? People tend to be indecisive about foot surgery because of the long recovery period. However, if minimally invasive bunion surgery is your best shot at reducing pain and discomfort caused by bunions, it’s recommended. We’ll show you how post-op PT helps speed up and improve your recovery.

Is Physical Therapy After Bunion Surgery Necessary?

Physical therapy isn’t always necessary after surgery. However, it may be recommended in a few instances, such as with lingering pain or discomfort. It can reduce pain and swelling and improve your range of motion, which is why it’s beneficial.

What to expect after bunion surgery? Most patients experience some pain and swelling, which is entirely normal. The surgeon usually provides instructions for post-op care, which patients should follow closely to ensure a smooth recovery.

Patients can expect to return to normal activities within a few weeks of surgery. However, it’s essential to listen to the body and take things slowly at first. Resuming activity too quickly can strain the healing tissues unnecessarily and cause complications.

What Does Physical Therapy Include?

Physical therapy exercises after bunion surgery may include:

  • Manual therapy to improve joint flexibility and reduce pain,
  • Strength, range of motion, and stability exercises,
  • Modalities such as ice or heat to reduce inflammation and pain,
  • Aquatic therapy.

Pain and Swelling Control

After having surgery to correct a bunion, the doctor will give you instructions for pain and swelling control therapy. This may include using ice packs, elevation, and compression wraps.

They’ll likely recommend that you avoid putting any weight on your foot for at least six weeks, prescribe antibiotics to help prevent infection, and send you to a PT who’ll demonstrate exercises for you to do at home.

Gait Training

The PT will also help with gait training to regain strength and stability in your feet and ankles and learn how to walk correctly again. Here’s how it can go:

  • You’ll start slowly and gradually increase the intensity of the workouts to minimize the risk of re-injury,
  • You’ll focus on the strength and flexibility of both your feet and ankles,
  • It’ll be important to practice walking barefoot or in shoes with a flexible sole to help you regain your natural walking pattern (gait).
A man working out his toes at home
You can do some manual therapy at home, as instructed by your PT

Take your time and be patient. It may take several weeks or even months to regain your strength and mobility fully, and once the bone has healed, you will likely need to wear a special shoe or insert to keep the foot from moving back into the old position.

Motion Range Therapy

Besides recovering your natural walking pattern, you’ll also do some motion range therapy (MRT). This is often recommended after bunion surgery because it works your range of motion in the foot and ankle and decreases pain.

There are a few different types of MRT, but all involve exercises that help to stretch and strengthen the muscles and ligaments around your ankle and foot. They can be done at home with simple equipment like resistance bands or rubber tubing.

Balance and Strengthening Workouts

A woman perching up her toes on a wooden floor
Your feet will be in their best condition after proper recovery

Balance and strengthening workouts can help you rebuild your foot’s strength and prevent muscular atrophy; this is bound to happen when a muscle is inactive for long enough.

Let your PT recommend gentle strengthening exercises for your feet and ankles to prevent muscle degradation. The entire leg is crucial for regaining the same range of motion as before, but the good news is that you can exercise at home to work on this.

Are There Some Exercises You Can Do at Home?

Your PT will give you some exercises to continue at home to regain strength and mobility in your feet. A few easy home exercises include:

  • Pointing and flexing the feet helps improve ankle flexibility and range of motion. Point your toes forward, then flex them back towards your shin. Repeat 10-15 times,
  • Toe curls will strengthen the feet and improve toe muscle coordination. Curl your toes up towards your shin, then slowly release 10-15 times,
  • Heel raises improve muscle strength in the calf and Achilles tendon. Lift your heels off of the ground, then slowly lower them back down, also 10-15 times,
  • Ankle circles improve the ankle joint’s range of motion and flexibility. Make circles with your ankles in one direction for 10-15 reps, switch directions, and do the same on the other side.

Can a Surgeon Recommend You Some Physical Therapy Tips?

A surgeon can and will recommend some exercises since they’re best acquainted with the type of recovery and injury you’re facing. A physical therapist can simply follow the surgeon’s instructions and build upon them as they notice progress over time.

For the best surgeons and comfortable post-operative recovery, contact Luxe Foot Surgery. We’re a team of dedicated medical professionals who can answer all your inquiries. You can fill out a contact form on our website or call us anytime between 9 am and 5 pm on weekdays.

A doctor with blue gloves holding a person's toes in one
Trust your surgeon to recommend the best forms of recovery


When Do You Start Physical Therapy After Bunion Surgery?

After minimally invasive surgery, it’s necessary to rest and wait for the pain and swelling to reduce. However, it’s possible to start working out your big toe after three days, with guidance from your surgeon and PT. This process lasts for at least six weeks.

What Exercises Should I Do After Bunion Surgery?

During your recovery from bunion surgery, you can perform many different exercises. For a start, during the first few days of recovery, you’ll most likely do only toe raises, lifts, and bends, to regain mobility in them. As recovery progresses, so will your physical therapy and exercises.

Why Do You Need Physical Therapy After Bunion Surgery?

While resting and recovering are crucial, PT is necessary after surgery because the muscles need to be worked. Muscle tissue can atrophy and degrade over long periods of inactivity, and losing functions in your ankles, feet, and toes can cause severe damage. 

When Can You Bend Your Toe After Bunion Surgery?

Recovery time varies from individual to individual, but most people can bend their toes just several days after surgery. However, pushing them to flex fully will only be harmful; follow your body’s cues and don’t overdo it.


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