Toe wiggling

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I had surgery on 8 out of 10 toes just 10 days ago for bunions and some realignment work. So far recovery has been a breeze and I am healing and feeling well. I had the stitches removed today, but still have pins in 2 toes.  I have been encouraged to start wiggling and curling my toes again now, but so far they’re not cooperating! I am going to take it slowly and not push myself to much, but at the same time I want to continue to progress well. Does anyone have any advice on how to get their toes moving again, or is it a case of lots of persistence and small steps!?

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  • Posted

    BTW, I forgot to mention that doing these ROM exercises can be painful initially, but it gets easier the more it's done.  Actually, it still is for me especially near my big toe.  I thought my Dr was in sane as he was recommending this to me and demonstrating how to do ROM after removing my stitches at 2wks post op.  While experiencing much swelling at the time thought it would just be impossible.  Though the alternative of not doing it wasn't an option as I was eager to get my foot's mobility back, and I knew it wasn't going to happen w/o effort... LOTS of effort while pushing self through the pain... little by little.  Keep in mind though that everyone responds differently given their particular surgery, pain tolerance level, and recovery journey.  So definitely go w whatever your Podiatrist Surgeon recommends overall.  Though from your original post it seems he/she may have given you minimal instruction on physical therapy exercises.  My Dr specifically suggested I do these ROM physical therapy exercises 3x a day for 5 minutes at a time and changing positions from upward to downward every 20 seconds.  He also suggested once a day I pull my big toe to extract the joint until it pops like cracking your hand knuckles, but that it would be ok if it doesn't happen but to try.  In my experience, it's only happened an average once per week and only during ROM in the downward position.  Anyways, so here's what I do daily... set my timer on my iphone for 5 minutes, and then w every :40, :20, and :00 mark change positions until the timer ends.  I also take extra time before and afterwards to massage my foot with an essential oils mixture to help alleviate the expected inflammation and soreness when doing ROM.  Again, expect pain with each transition, but remain encouraged w your own progress and knowing you're on your way to mobility!  You can do this!! ;D  Now that I'm approaching 6wks post op (Austin, 2 titanium screws, and bone spur shaved off top of foot), my foot's mobility has progressed tremendously well.  Though I'm still having to wear my aircast boot around the house (as recommended by my Dr) until next week's appointment, I'll admit that I've allowed myself now and then to go bear foot [in UGG slippers with shoe inserts slipped in for arch support] slowly around the house and no longer need crutches.  Now that's progress, IMO! smile  Keep persevering through your own recovery and you'll be on your way to mobility too!  Let us know how it goes!! 

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    • Posted

      Hi Ria and all! I’m desperately searching posts as I try and figure out exactly when I should start to do similar things like what you are doing. At my week post op last Wednesday I got my stitches out (which was horrifyingly painful, the assistant  was not gentle, and I nearly passed out from the pain, she ripped them out!) and was told I could start to do the toe wiggle and then pulling on big toe, etc. I thought she was crazy, I couldn’t even breathe on my foot then and the thought of tugging on it was terrifying! Since then I’ve managed to do the big toe wiggle a bit, but because of the bad experience with the stitches I can’t remember the other exercises to do! I had my left foot done years ago, twice, long story, and it still hurts, and my big toe doesn’t bend as much as it should, according to the ortho surgeon I went to this time. So I certainly don’t want the results like last timeI believe the exercises were similar to how you explained above, thanks for that! I will need to write those down!  I wish I’d have taken notes or they had given me written instructions as my memory isn’t the best, especially on the pain pills I don’t like taking! 

      I guess my question is, did you start them after your two week post op appt like they suggested, and did you just power through the pain? And did you build up to how often you did them? I guess I’m worried I’ll damage my foot if I try and I’m not sure how much pain is “ok”? I’m scared to try it, and I just need to pony up and do it. I need visuals usually so maybe I’ll try and look on you tube.

      oh wow, I’m sorry I’m rambling! I hate taking the pain pills and not even sure they work, and they keep me up, two days in a row last week! I wish they knocked me out so I could just rest! I am taking oxycodone and I had planned on taking as few as possible, I don’t like taking that kind of med, especially if they don’t seem to help and have the opposite effect of helping me rest! And they clearly make me foggy headed ! 

      i went back back to work yesterday and stayed wayyyy too long. I felt actually good, it was probaby the adrenaline as I had so much work to do. I’m able to do some form home, luckily! I went in again today and I had to have my husband come get me, I was a wreck in pain. I’m mad at myself for overdoing it, but I’m the only one who does my job, so the thought of it piling up,was stressing me out.  But I’m on a knee scooter until my next appt, the only weight I can try and do was on the heal she said. It’s pretty hard to do with that Velcro shoe on and I have yet to put much effort into trying it. 

      Wow i I sound out of it :-( but I need to try and find some things that worked for others in my situation so I can continue to get better, and not go backwards. I have to be able to work.


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    • Posted

      Hi there Dona!  No worries about rambling on.  Lol.  I've done my share w friends via text and on here too.  It really helps to share our concerns and what's going on as a means to encourage and help provide insight to one another on this recovery journey. 

      Yes, I started the ROM exercises immediately, but didn't really push myself the first few days since my stitches were just out and still had medical tape atop incision area which eventually fell off within 3-4 days.  My reluctance and concern at the time w doing the ROM was that I might bust open my closed incision because my foot would swell significantly whenever foot was in a position aside from being elevated.  After my 2wks was also given permission to take baths.  So whenever I did, my incision and surrounding skin would be softened and looked as if it were opening up.  That made me even more scared 😳 so I halted the ROM exercises for a day each time until incision looked dry and connected.  Definitely start off slowly but gradually build up efforts carefully pushing self through the transitions.  It'll be painful but do your best to hold your positions through the 20 seconds and each transition and lighten up tiny bit when it becomes unbearable.  What has really helped me persevere through these is the thought of having a very stiff toe and hearing other people's experiences w that and their surgeon having to go back in to fix or remove the hard tissue. 😱 I can't imagine having to go through that or extending the already lengthy recovery time.  Now I aim to do it 5x/day vs 3x.  

      Like yourself, I can't recall any details at my Dr appointments and would have my husband be my extra set of ears.  Actually, he has no choice as he is my driver (chauffeur he prefers to call himself 😁wink as I can't drive given that it's my dominant RT foot that was worked on.  

      Definitely do a search online for "range of motion exercises after bunion surgery" and you should come across a PDF by Kaiser which provides detailed instructions on how to do these along w extracting the toe and other exercises to graduate to.  Also there are many video instructions on YouTube to check out too.  My favorite and often referenced YouTube videos w great detail are by the following:


      Foot and Ankle Associates 

      Northwest Foot & Ankle

      I'd provide you a link but the forum moderators delete those messages.

      As for the painkillers, I was on oxycodone-acetaminophen.  It was too strong and really made me nauseous and emotional,😩😡🤓😊 but it worked to stay ahead of the expected pain during the first 2wks.  So my Dr then recommended just taking half a pill when needed.  I don't really take it anymore.

      Wow!  Already back to work?!  Which procedure did you have done?  Definitely consider taking additional time off from work or working part time or minimally from home.    Resting and elevating, etc is hard when there's so much to do, but RICE (resting, icing, compressing and elevating) is so vital and necessary for successful recovery.  Not doing so only lengthens your recovery and opens you up to complications.  

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    • Posted

      You are a world of help! thanks!  You are absolutely correct on starting those exercises right away. With my left foot I was never given any instructions as to start moving it and it is very stiff. That’s why I am paranoid about my right foot being the same. Luckily this is a different surgeon and has a very different much improved protocol. My husband went with me to the appointments as well because of course he is my chauffeur also. :-) I will have to look as to the exact Name of the procedure I believe it was something like hallux v... something. For sure a Bunionectomy of sorts.  I just don’t feel like searching for it now :-) I do have to work from home as my boss is pretty demanding and I am the only one that does my job and it does have to get done. Luckily I am able to do most of it from home. I absolutely hate these painkillers. They are the same ones you prescribed above and they don’t make me tired they make me extremely spacey and now that you said emotional that is probably it as well :-) And they don’t help with the pain! Being wide-awake all night for several days I’m sure made me even battier. I’m going to try and just stick with the ibuprofen to help the swelling which I don’t think it’s really that bad anymore. And I’m going to ice and heat it regularly. I have Raynauds so the cold hurts my feet after awhile. Yes, my feet are a mess!!! Family genetics rolleyes I wish there was a way to see your posts so I can go back a glance at them quickly! I did look on YouTube in the first one that came up was a woman who could bend her toe even better than I probably ever could!
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    • Posted

      Hi Dona,

      This time last week, I too was a bit unsure of how I was ever going to be able to move my toes again. They felt like they had been set in a block of concrete. No matter how much I tried to move them, they just wouldn't budge. Since then, each day they have progressed quite willingly to move about and wiggle again. I haven't tried to many of the exercises, but I'm toe curling now without needing to try to hard at all. I'm still not brave enough to pull on my big toe too much, but we'll get there eventually! Just keep persevering through it and you will reach all your goals step by step. Don't expect too much to soon and try and stay positive. Take a treat for every small goal you achieve, it sure helps biggrin

      If the medication that was prescribed to you isn't helping with the pain and only making you drowsy, spacey and emotional, then why are you still taking them!? Please stop and stick with something that will actually help you. I'm very wary of all medications and it's my understanding these ones can be quite addictive, or have lots of unwanted side effects. This is an emotional rollercoaster anyway, with lots of ups and downs and pills like that are most likely not helping at all. I was prescribed tapentadol, but never reached the point of pain to take them. I stuck with paracetamol and ibuprofen for the first 4 days post surgery and now just the occasional ibuprofen, if I feel the throbbing pain is too much for me after elevation and ice. Now that the stitches are out, I use a warm face cloth to cover my feet for a while. This helps to relax them. I have then been massaging arnica cream (around the wounds) to help with the inflammation, joints and bruises. Try massaging some over your stiff left foot too, I find it works wonders for joint aches and pains. Sleep can be the best cure, so try to relax in the evenings. I make sure I have at least an hour of no screen time before bed, a camomile tea and soothing music can help too. Try  some lavender oil in your palms or on your temples too. After a good nights rest, you'll see things more clearly and feel so much better about everything. I have been quite uncomfortable sleeping on my back and wearing the shoes, but we need to try to get past it, relax a little more and just be kind to ourselves.

      Try not to stress over the work load either and make sure you get yourself fit first. If you do too much now, your recovery will delay and it will take you longer to get back on your feet in the long run. I find I have a lot more energy in the mornings, so maybe give yourself 2-3hrs of work time then and use the afternoon to have a nap, or watch a movie with your feet iced and elevated. Not forgetting to do your exercises in between of course! Your health always comes first, please remember that and best wishes for speedy recovery 

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    • Posted

      Thanks dear Essie! I need to print that out and read it! I  have stopped taking the pain pills. It really was silly to keep on taking them if I wasn’t finding any relief and they were making me wide-awake and I’m sure more emotional than usual. Plus I feel getting addicted to anything like that. I certainly wouldn’t want to feel like that all of the time! People who get addicted must feel something very different than how I feel on them. I don’t want to know regardless LOL. I have enough issues :-) On Monday I went and feeling really good and I worked from nine until five. Straight through. I felt fine the entire time and I knew even as I was doing it I would pay the next day like I did. It was silly of me. I was just trying to get caught up. My husband reminded me last night when I did some work from home, which I am thankful to be able to do, but two hours have passed already. So I stopped. I also use the arnica cream and I love it. I also take the tablets. I definitely need to dragOut my essential oil’s and start those. I have quite a few of those and I have been putting some on the bottom of my feet but I need to utilize those for sure especially since I have them. Thank you so much :-) I wish you well!
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  • Posted

    Looks like my 1st post was deleted by the moderator likely due to links included.  Anyways, here's the info again but w/out links....

    The physical therapy exercises most commonly recommended for after bunionectomy is called range of motion.  If you do an online/google search for "range of motion exercises after bunion surgery" you'll come across some helpful ones including Kaiser's PDF which has detailed instructions and diagrams on how to do the ROM and extracting the joints.

    There are many helpful YouTube videos on the topic too for you to search and review at your leisure.  Since I'm visual as a photographer, I found the videos and PDFs really helpful to reference often.

    Hope that helps in your recovery journey!  Stay encouraged!! :D

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    • Posted

      Wow thank you so much for the detailed feedback, I will certainly check out the website and youtube videos for more exercises. I have to keep reminding myself that is still very early days, my surgery was just 2 weeks ago today. Since I originally posted on Friday, I have already seen and felt I have made huge progress. They certainly don't feel as stiff and they are moving slowly but surely again. I'm not so nervous about trying to get the toes moving now either, so I am able to push myself a little further each day. I'm not sure I feel comfortable with pulling the big toes just yet, although they are probably a lot stronger than I envision!! I love that I can now wash my feet and the warm water helps me to relax them. I also started to use arnica cream which may have helped the inflammation and joints too.

      I am in a sandal rather than a boot, but they can get very heavy if worn for to long at a time, especially at night. Did you keep yours on for sleeping in? I am longing for the day I can take them off and sleep on my side again without rearranging pillows for elevation! Thank you for your advice, it's much appreciated and good luck with your recovery too biggrin

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    • Posted

      Glad to hear you're progressing well, Esseie!

      For the first 2 weeks, I had to wear my air cast boot when hobbling around even while using my crutches.  Also was required to use air cast boot when sleeping in bed those first 2 weeks.  It wasn't fun nor easy cause it felt heavy having my foot propped up on two pillows.  And there's only few positions I could get into just to be somewhat comfortable.  Eventually I got used to it.  At my 2wk post op appointment, my Dr said I no longer needed to wear it at night, and then instructed me to be FWB (full weight bearing) thereafter for short distances around the house and to expect swelling.  Every time I elevated my foot while in the living room would take boot off so my foot could relax w/o the additional weight of the boot.  My next appt is this Wed for my 6wk post op and hope to address other concerns that came up (spitting stitches), be released from the boot once and for all, and maybe get the green light to drive again!


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