After sustaining a trimalleolar fracture, your doctor will refer you to physical therapy. Physical therapy is part of the rehabilitation process for those who sustained a trimalleolar fracture. The physical therapy referral may be provided post surgery. If the fracture is treated without surgical intervention, a cast will be provided and a referral to a physical therapist will be provided almost immediately.
The prescribed physical therapy after a trimalleolar fracture may initially help the patient properly use any prescribed assistive walking devices. If asked to use a cane, walker or crutches, a physical therapist can help the patient properly use these devices in such a way that will prevent further injury to other body parts. The therapist will want to make sure the recovering person learn techniques to adapt to life while recovering that will prevent further strain to the ankle.
The initial therapy session(s) may also include instructions related to the weight bearing restrictions and how best to comply with them. Complying with weight bearing restrictions is vital to the recovery of the ankle.
Due to the weight and mobility restrictions a person faces after an ankle fracture, a physical therapist may teach the injured person knee and hip exercises to perform while the ankle recovers. Since a person will be limited in walking or standing during the recovery of their ankle, the knee and hip muscles will weaken. This leads to atrophy of the entire muscle group used for walking. Physical therapy exercises for the knee and hip can help a person from losing strength and prevents or limits atrophy of the muscle group while the ankle fracture heals.
You will likely also be advised to move your toes while the foot is in a cast. While this may seem minor, movement of the toes can keep blood clots and adhesion of the tendons from forming.
The role of the physical therapist includes helping the person regain proper gait, strength, and range of motion. The physical therapist will also evaluate and treat swelling and pain at the injury site and the surrounding area. If a person underwent surgery, the physical therapist will evaluate the scar and scar tissue.
If a surgery was performed, scar tissue will form. The therapist will determine if massage of the scar tissue is necessary so that ankle remodeling occurs properly. Restoring the tissue around the scar site with massage will help increase mobility and function. The therapist may determine that you or a family member perform massage of the scar tissue at-home between treatment. If so, scar tissue massage training will be provided. (A word of caution: Do not begin to massage a scar until instructed to do so by a physical therapist.) Myofascial release is often a term used by therapists to describe the technique used to massage the skin and tissues around the scar. This technique includes slow motion and the light use of force.
It is not uncommon for a person to experience some fear or anxiety over loss of strength and motion to the ankle, leg, knee and hip. The physical therapist will help allay fears and will cheer you on in your recovery. They will also help set realistic goals to keep a person moving forward in their recovery.
While a trimalleoar fracture will drastically impact your life for months and may require physical therapy for up to a year, the injured ankle and leg will recover but only with compliance of the prescribed physical therapy program.
The Sacramento Personal Injury Law Offices of Edward A. Smith can provide assistance to those who sustained an ankle fracture as a result of a car accident, slip and fall, trucking collision, motorcycle crash or other traumatic event. You can call us at (916) 921-6400 or (800) 404-5400.