When a patient is suffering from pain and discomfort due to a bunion, our primary goals are to alleviate that pain as much as possible and try to keep the condition from progressing further.
In many cases, we are successfully able to achieve both these goals using conservative methods, such as changes in footwear and the use of orthotics, splints, and other devices. If conservative methods do not provide the results we wish to see, however, then surgery might be considered as an option.
Bunion surgery—and any surgery, for that matter—is never a decision to make lightly. It must be done with a full review of a patient’s history, needs, and potential alternatives. When bunion surgery is on the table, we want you to be assured that you understand all it involves and are prepared to move forward in full knowledge and confidence.
Not every case that may involve bunion surgery is the same, but we would like to provide answers to a few general questions when it comes to what you might expect. Please note that the best and most complete information about bunion treatment will come through straight consultation with us.
What Happens During Bunion Surgery?
There is no one set type of bunion surgery. There are many different procedures and variations that are used depending on the factors surrounding an individual case.
The common goals for most of these procedures are to relieve pain, realign the joint at the base of the big toe (the one where the bump is), and correct the deformity. The shape, size, and severity of the bunion will have an influence on how surgery is approached, as will the age, medical history, and needs of the patient.
The most common form of bunion surgery is an osteotomy. This is when we cut into the bones of the toe with the purpose of realigning the joint. This sometimes also includes removing a portion of the bone.
Another procedure focuses on tendons, ligaments, and other soft tissues that surround the joint. Weaknesses and abnormalities in these tissues can be responsible for instability and drifting of the joint. By shortening loose tissues and tightening loose ones, greater stability can be achieved in the area.
In some cases, work may be performed on both the bones and soft tissues, and there are multiple different ways this work may be done. If there are additional elements that should be addressed, such as damage to the surface of the joint, the damage may be removed.
The exact procedures recommended for your situation would be fully discussed with you before moving forward.
What Are Signs that I Need Bunion Surgery?
While every circumstance is different, there are certain factors that increase the likelihood of surgery being necessary for a bunion. They include:
- Pain is severe enough that it interferes with your daily routines, work, or activities.
- Mobility problems, e.g. being unable to walk more than a block or two without intense foot pain.
- Being unable to bend or straighten your big toe.
- Having severe arthritis in the joint.
- Being older.
- Having tried more conservative treatments that have not proven to be effective.
Will I Be Awake for Bunion Surgery?
In many cases, yes.
General anesthesia is not commonly used for a bunion procedure. A local anesthetic, often referred to as an ankle block, is much more commonly used. This will make your entire foot numb below the ankle, and the procedure will be performed while you are awake.
(No, you will not have to look at it.)
Following the procedure, your foot will be bandaged and you will be moved to a room for recovery. Your vitals will be monitored as the anesthesia wears off, just for safety purposes.
After a couple hours in recovery, you will usually be cleared to go home. You will, of course, need someone to drive you.
How Long Does Bunion Surgery Recovery Take? What Can I Do or Not Do?
Typically, the first stage of bunion surgery recovery takes 6-8 weeks, although time might be added or removed depending on certain situations.
This first stage is when you may be relying on a boot or cast, braces and dressings. Your dressings must be kept dry throughout the course of needing them, meaning you will need to wear a plastic bag over your foot while you are in the shower.
For the first few days following surgery, it is important to keep the foot elevated as much as possible and not to place any weight upon it. You may be prescribed a cane, crutches, or walker to minimize stress on the area.
After about one week, you may be able to start driving again.
After about two weeks, your sutures may be removed. However, you will still need to continue wearing braces, dressings, and potentially other equipment that is recommended.
After the first phase, when the dressings are finally removed, you will still need to be careful with your foot. Avoid high heels or constrictive shoes for the next several months. Sneakers, athletic shoes, and soft leather tend to be fine.
Certain exercises and physical therapy may be recommended through the course of your recovery to improve conditioning in your foot and maintain stability. If any antibiotics or other drugs are prescribed, it will be important to take them as directed.
The Help You Need for Bunion Relief
Whether surgery or a more conservative treatment plan is recommended for your bunions, the best course of action will always be taking care of the problem sooner than later.
There is no reason to wait on potential bunion care—especially if you are lucky enough to catch the condition early! The sooner you start treatment, the less of a problem the condition is likely to be in the future.
But even if you have had a bunion for years or decades, that doesn’t mean you are beyond help. Far from it!
Our office in Medford is ready to help. To schedule an appointment, call us at (541) 776-3338.