Surgery for Hammer Toe: What to Expect at Home
You had hammer toe surgery to straighten a curled toe. After your surgery, your toe may be stiff, red, and swollen. Depending on the type of surgery you had for your hammer toe, these symptoms can last for weeks to months. They will slowly get better with time.
After surgery, you will need to wear a special type of shoe to protect your toe and to keep it in the right position for 3 to 6 weeks. Your doctor will remove your stitches or sutures about 2 weeks after the surgery. If your doctor put a temporary pin or other device in place to keep your toe straight while it heals, it will be removed 3 to 6 weeks after surgery.
This care sheet gives you a general idea about how long it will take for you to recover. But each person recovers at a different pace. Follow the steps below to get better as quickly as possible.
How can you care for yourself at home?
- Rest when you feel tired. Getting enough sleep will help you recover.
- Try to walk each day if you are able. Start by walking a little more than you did the day before. Bit by bit, increase the amount you walk. Walking boosts blood flow and helps prevent pneumonia and constipation.
- It may be as long as 4 to 6 weeks before you can drive. Ask your doctor when you can drive again.
- You may shower, unless your doctor tells you not to. Keep the bandage dry. If the bandage has been removed, you can wash the area with plain warm water. Pat the area dry.
- You will probably need to take at least 1 to 4 weeks off work, depending on your job. It will be 3 to 6 weeks or longer before you can stand or walk for long periods.
- You can eat your normal diet. If your stomach is upset, try bland, low-fat foods like plain rice, broiled chicken, toast, and yogurt.
- You may notice that your bowel movements are not regular right after your surgery. This is common. Try to avoid constipation and straining with bowel movements. You may want to take a fibre supplement every day. If you have not had a bowel movement after a couple of days, ask your doctor about taking a mild laxative.
- Your doctor will tell you if and when you can restart your medicines. You also will be given instructions about taking any new medicines.
- If you stopped taking aspirin or some other blood thinner, your doctor will tell you when to start taking it again.
- Be safe with medicines. Take pain medicines exactly as directed.
- If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
- If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter medicine.
- If your doctor prescribed antibiotics, take them as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.
- If you think your pain medicine is making you sick to your stomach:
- Take your medicine after meals (unless your doctor has told you not to).
- Ask your doctor for a different pain medicine.
- You will leave the hospital with bandages holding your toe in the correct position. Your doctor will probably remove the bandages after several days. Or your doctor may have you remove your bandages at home. Do not touch the surgery area. Keep it dry.
- Do not soak your foot until your doctor says it is okay.
Ice and elevation
- For pain and swelling, put ice or a cold pack on your foot for 10 to 20 minutes each hour. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your skin.
- Prop up your foot and leg on a pillow when you ice it or anytime you sit or lie down during the next 3 days. Try to keep it above the level of your heart. This will help reduce swelling.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
When should you call for help?
Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:
- You passed out (lost consciousness).
- You have sudden chest pain and shortness of breath, or you cough up blood.
- You have severe trouble breathing.
Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:
- Your foot or toes are cool or pale or change colour.
- You have numbness, tingling, or less feeling in your foot or toe.
- You have pain that does not get better after you take pain medicine.
- You have loose stitches, or your incision comes open.
- Bright red blood has soaked through the bandage over your incision.
- You have signs of infection, such as:
- Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
- Red streaks leading from the incision.
- Pus draining from the incision.
- Swollen lymph nodes in your neck, armpits, or groin.
- A fever.
Watch closely for any changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:
- You do not have a bowel movement after taking a laxative.
Where can you learn more?
Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd
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Current as of: March 9, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine & Gavin W.G. Chalmers DPM - Podiatry and Podiatric Surgery