Weight-bearing restrictions and activities after surgery

After lower extremity surgery, your orthopaedic healthcare provider may limit the amount of weight you can place on your operated leg. This restriction is necessary to provide sufficient time for proper bone or tissue healing. It also allows any hardware placed during surgery to remain in place.

This article describes the different weight-bearing limits your orthopedic surgeon may prescribe, including what’s involved in the different stages of recovery.

Types of weight restrictions

Understanding the different types of weight restraints, and how to perform them, can often be confusing. So what are weight-bearing limitations, and how do you transition from non-weight-bearing to full weight-bearing after an injury or surgery?

It’s best to consult with your healthcare provider or physical therapist (PT) about your specific weight-bearing limits and how to properly maintain them. Studies have shown that compliance with these restrictions is low and can have serious consequences.

It is important to strictly adhere to your weight-bearing limits after surgery or injury, otherwise you may disrupt healing and delay your recovery. These restrictions are designed to protect your body as it heals.

non-weight bearing

Non-weight bearing means that the operated leg cannot bear any weight. This is the strictest of all the weight restrictions. Since your legs cannot carry any weight, you will need to use assistive devices such as a walker or crutches.

When walking with a walker or crutches, keep the affected knee bent and toes off the floor. No weight means no weight; even the slightest pressure on the legs can cause problems.

10 tips for using crutches correctly

toe contact weight bearing

Toe-contact weight bearing means that only the toes on your operated leg should be touching the ground. However, this is only for balance and a lot of weight should not be placed on the toes.

Therefore, you will still need assistive devices such as a walker or crutches to walk. Your toes are only used for light balance and stability.

partial load

Partial weight bearing allows you to place half of your weight on the surgical limb. Start by using a scale to see how much pressure is placed on the affected leg with half your body weight. Stand using your assistive device, applying light pressure to your legs.

Your physical therapist can help you work your way up to partial weight bearing. Sometimes, your healthcare provider may give specific instructions when prescribing partial weight bearing. They might prescribe a 25% load, a 50% load, or a 75% load.

Your PT can help you know how much weight to put on your legs. Make a note of this and limit the pressure you put on the operated leg during walking to this limit. Since full weight bearing is still not allowed, crutches, crutches or walkers can help you walk without losing your balance.

full weight

Full weight bearing allows you to put all your weight on the surgical limb. There is no limit to the weight placed on the lap, so assistive equipment is usually not required.

If you’ve been walking on crutches or crutches, you probably don’t want to simply throw these things away, as you may need them to progress from partial to full weight bearing. Sometimes going from partial to full weights can make your muscles a little sore, so expect that. Your PT can help you safely transition from partial to full weight bearing.

It is important to strictly adhere to your weight-bearing limits after surgery or injury, otherwise you may disrupt healing and delay your recovery. These restrictions are designed to protect your body as it heals.


Weight-bearing restriction helps leg surgery heal properly. They include non-weight-bearing limits, toe-contact weight-bearing limits (putting only the toes on the ground for balance), or partial weight-bearing limits. All of these involve some type of assistive device, such as a walker, crutches or walking stick.

non-compliance risk

If you fail to maintain the weight bearing properly, you may cause further injury or jeopardize the success of the procedure. Of course, if you accidentally put your foot on the floor when you shouldn’t be carrying the weight, chances are you haven’t done any harm.

Just assess your situation and return to your previous weight-bearing state. Signs that you need to see your healthcare provider if you accidentally disrupt your weight bearing status may include:

  • Increased leg pain after injury or surgery
  • increased redness or swelling in the legs
  • Difficulty moving causes more pain

If you violate your weight-bearing precautions after an injury or surgery, or if you accidentally trip and put a sudden, extreme amount of weight on your leg, it’s best to exercise caution and call your healthcare provider. Be honest and explain exactly what happened.


If you don’t follow weight-bearing restrictions, you can jeopardize the success of leg surgery. If you fail to comply for any reason and experience increased pain, redness, or swelling, call your healthcare provider right away to avoid any further harm.


Weight-bearing restrictions help lower extremities heal properly after an injury or surgery.

They include non-weight-bearing limits (no weight placed on the legs), toe-contact weight-bearing limits (where the only toes are placed on the ground for balance), and partial weight-bearing limits (usually supervised by a healthcare provider such as a physical therapist) . All of these involve some sort of assistive device, such as a walker, crutches, or walking stick.

It is important to adhere to these restrictions, as failure to do so may jeopardize the success of your surgery and/or recovery. Call your doctor if for any reason you can’t hold on and feel increased pain, swelling, or redness in your leg.

VigorTip words

After an injury or surgery, your healthcare provider may limit your weight-bearing activities. If so, you’ll need to learn how to use assistive devices properly, which can be trickier than some people think.

Your healthcare provider or physical therapist can teach you how to use these devices, however, if you find that you cannot manage them for any reason, please let them know. For example, someone who lacks upper body strength may find a walker easier to use than crutches. Others may need a wheelchair.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How to walk with crutches on non-weight-bearing legs?

    Stand on your strong leg and move your crutches forward. Squeeze the crutches with your upper arms, maintaining your weight through your arms and hands. When the foot of your non-weight-bearing leg is off the ground, cross the crutch on your strong leg.

    understand more:

    10 tips for using crutches correctly

  • How to take a bath with non-weight bearing legs?

    Ask your surgeon when it is safe to shower. Once you’re sure, consider using a shower chair to help maintain balance and sit comfortably. If possible, have someone help you in and out of the shower to prevent falls.

  • How can you go up stairs without weight-bearing legs?

    According to the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons, the safest way is to sit. Sit on the lowest step with your hands behind you for the next step. Use your hands and stronger legs to push yourself to the next step and repeat the process.