Can I fully recover after ankle surgery? 

If you’ve just had ankle surgery or are scheduled for a procedure soon, this is probably the most important question you have about your recovery. While your surgeon has probably told you what to expect from the surgery, how do you make your recovery really count?   

Here’s a guide to some of the most common questions we’re asked at CSSM and the important role physiotherapy plays in the rehabilitation process.  

Rehabilitation and physiotherapy post ankle surgery is vital for recovery and restoration of normal joint range of movement, strength, balance and joint sense of position (known as proprioception).  

Following an individualised rehabilitation program will help you return to sports and activities and aid in the prevention of further injuries. 

There are many different types of surgeries that are performed on the ankle for various conditions. These include: 

  • Open reduction and internal fixation (ORIF) for management of fractures 
  • Ankle reconstruction 
  • Ankle fusion/arthrodesis 
  • Ankle arthroscopy (keyhole surgery) +/- debridement 
  • Tendon reconstruction 
  • Joint replacement/arthroplasty 

What happens after surgery? 

Depending on the type of ankle surgery you are having and your surgeon, the post-operative management varies. You may be required to wear a boot or cast for a period of up to six weeks. How much bodyweight you can put on your affected ankle will be guided by your surgeon’s instructions.  

You may require crutches in this initial phase of recovery. Physiotherapy is important at this stage to maintain movement and strength in unaffected joints, help manage pain and swelling and prevent secondary complications such as deep vein thrombosis. 

Following this initial phase of recovery, your physiotherapist will guide you through an individualised rehabilitation program, progressing once certain time-frames are met to allow for tissue and bone healing, and once you are able to achieve specific outcomes/exercises. Depending on the type of surgery you have had, it may take up to 6-12 months to regain full function in your ankle, but it’s important to remember that everyone is different and may heal at different rates. 

What will physiotherapy involve? 

Physiotherapy and rehabilitation will progress as you heal and when appropriate. It will involve:  

  • Swelling and pain management 
  • Joint range of movement (manual therapy, stretches, exercises)
  • Progression through different weightbearing phases/boots/bracing/taping
  • Normalising your walking pattern 
  • Strengthening
  • Balance training 
  • Proprioception (joint sense of position) training 
  • Gradual return to exercise 
  • A return to sport program 
  • Maintenance and prevention of recurrence strategies 

If you are about to have, or have already had an ankle operation, come and see one of our physiotherapists here at CSSM to help you recover and get back to doing your favourite activities or sports.


  1. OrthoSport Victoria. (2019). Ankle reconstruction – Postoperative Physiotherapy. Retrieved from  
  1. American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society. (2019). Ankle fracture surgery. Retrieved from