Ankle surgery recovery takes time—typically at least six weeks, depending on the type of surgery and the severity of the injury.1 Recovery downtime is inevitable, but there are steps you can take to help move along the healing process.

Your doctor will tell you when you can start putting weight on the injured ankle, and when you can return to normal activity. Although it might be tempting to test the waters if you are not feeling a lot of pain, it’s important to carefully follow their instructions because doing too much too soon could undo the repairs and set you back even more. 

Have patience and follow these tips during your ankle surgery recovery:

  1. Rest ... and then rest some more.
  2. Chow down ... but try to stick to healthy foods.
  3. Chill out ... with a cold therapy machine.
  4. Feel the pressure ... with cold and compression.

1. Rest ... and then rest some more

This is one of the hardest things to do for some people, especially athletes, but getting a lot of rest in the first several days after ankle surgery can help the healing process. Your body does a lot of healing while you sleep, and if you stay in bed with your ankle elevated, you may reduce the amount of strain you put on the tissues that are repairing themselves.2

2. Chow down ... but only on healthy foods

Your body needs energy to heal, and a lot of it. Energy comes in the form of calories, so it’s important to maintain a healthy diet. In addition to energy, you also need a good balance of nutrients, so stock up on fruits, veggies, and lean proteins. Protein deficiency may make it more difficult for your body to build and heal tendons and bones.3 The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics advises that most people need at least 0.35 grams of protein per pound of body weight each day.4

Hydration is also important during your recovery, so be sure to drink plenty of water.5

3. Chill out ... with a cold therapy machine

Cold therapy is a critical step during ankle surgery recovery because it can help reduce pain and swelling during your recovery.6 You can use ice packs, but you may want to ask your doctor about using a cold therapy device. Some cold therapy devices come with an ankle wrap that conforms to your body and circulates cold water at a consistent temperature. Because the wrap is anatomically designed, the therapeutic cold can reach the whole ankle. Cold therapy may also help reduce pain without the use of medication6.

4. Feel the pressure ... with cold and compression

Another benefit to using a cold therapy device is that some may also provide active compression at the same time that they deliver consistent cold. Compression is important during ankle surgery recovery because it helps reduce swelling and inflammation.7 

Ankle surgery recovery will take some time, but being proactive about getting enough rest, eating right, and using cold and compression to help control pain and swelling may help you move along the recovery process.

Speak with your doctor if you’re interested in cold therapy for your recovery.


  1. How long is the recovery period after ankle surgery? Premier Orthopaedics. Published Aug. 25, 2015.
  2. Silverman L. 8 tips to speed up your recovery time following ankle surgery. Silverman Ankle & Foot. Published Dec. 28, 2012.
  3. Key building blocks to a surgical recovery diet. Orthopedic Foot & Ankle Center. Published Oct. 30, 2012.
  4. Protein intake for optimal muscle maintenance. American College of Sports Medicine. Accessed June 19, 2019.
  5. Nutrition & hydration. Recognize to Recover.
  6. Block J. Cold and compression in the management of musculoskeletal injuries and orthopedic operative procedures: a narrative review. Open Access Journal of Sports Medicine. July 2010:105-113.
  7. Van den Bekerom MPJ, Struijs PA, Blankevoort L, Welling L, Van Dijk CN, Kerkhoffs GM. What is the evidence for rest, ice, compression, and elevation therapy in the treatment of ankle sprains in adults? Journal of Athletic Training. 2012;47(4):435-443. Accessed June 19, 2019.