Fusing Arthritis Surgery and Rehabilitation

For people who suffer from arthritis, surgery using a compression screw can treat the condition in the foot and ankle. In this procedure, two sides of the joint are roughened, and the two bones making up the arthritic joint are fused, using a screw. After the area is immobilized with a cast, the body is then “tricked” into believing that there has been a fracture. In response, the body lays down bone to heal the area, with the result that the two bones become one, and the pain and stiffness from an arthritic joint are relieved. Much of this surgery’s success is dependent on what occurs during the healing phase. With our guidance soon after surgery, you can avoid dangerous activities and participate in helpful ones.

Generally, you should avoid too much weight-bearing activity, because this can prevent the two bones from fusing; any applied major force, which can loosen the screws and cast; and participation in contact sports and related activities. Under our guidance, you will

  • reduce initial pain and swelling
  • create and manage an activity schedule
  • learn to use assistive devices, and when and how to perform weight-bearing exercises

When the joint first starts to heal, the bone laid down is weak. As time progresses, however, the new bone becomes denser and stronger—mature bone. This gradual process requires some weight to stimulate it, but not so much that the bones do not fuse. For this reason, your progression to walking and other forms of exercise must be part of a program we can carefully design for you, the goals of which are to help you maximize your strength, walk without a limp, improve your balance and resume your activities. One bad move can disrupt successful fusion following surgery. By following our instructions for four to eight weeks, you can enjoy pain relief, gain full restoration of function and avoid future problems.