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What causes increase in the swelling and stiffness of ankle after walking for a while?

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Orthopaedic Surgeon
Practicing since : 1994
Answered : 10454 Questions
Dr. Tayal


I had ankle surgery (plate and 7 screws) for bimalleleolar fracture on XXXXXXX 4th. Was asked to start full weight bearing as tolerated starting July 15th. I also started therapy (4 sessions so far). Today was the first day I went out and walked at Costco and Target (without crutches nor wheelchair). Was able to walk with little limp for good amount of time, with just walking boots (Aircast). However, as soon as I came home, my swelling and stiffness has increased quite a bit. I am really not sure if this is normal. (I will check with my therapist/OS tomorrow). Now being Sunday night, just wanted to make sure I did not get too much done today by walking with boots (without crutches). All the full weight bearing I have been doing so far was just at home and that too barefoot. Today was the longest I did FWB outside home with walking boot. Just want to make sure I did not cause too much problem for myself
Posted Sat, 23 Aug 2014 in Bones, Muscles and Joints
Answered by Dr. Praveen Tayal 1 hour later
Brief Answer:
It is normal.

Detailed Answer:
Thanks for writing again.
The increase in the swelling and stiffness after walking for a while is normal. No need to use the crutches. Aircast is fine for walking short distances.
Pain or stiffness may also be experienced upon stretching. Activities which place large amounts of stress on the ankle should be minimized, these include: running (especially up or down hills, or, on uneven surfaces), jumping, hopping, squatting and kicking. Rest from aggravating activities allows the body to begin the healing process in the absence of further tissue damage. Once you can perform these activities pain free, a gradual return to these activities is indicated provided there is no increase in symptoms.
To reduce the swelling you can keep the foot elevated on two pillows while resting. Continue doing hot fomentation and apply a local analgesic gel on the area to reduce the stiffness. Do continue with the physiotherapy sessions. It can take 4-6 weeks to return to all your activities.
Hope my answer is helpful.

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