When to Consider Getting Bunion Surgery

Symptoms That Could Mandate Bunion Surgery and What You Need to Know

It’s safe to say that anyone who has bunions wishes there were no such thing but, many days, it’s relatively easy to ignore these unwelcome foot intruders. Bunions are typically caused by your inherited foot structure, although things such as shoes with tight toe boxes, frequent use of high heel shoes, and standing for long periods of time can exacerbate their painful symptoms. After a while, you might decide the pain is too much to bear and, unfortunately, bunions are progressive – meaning they won’t go away and are only likely to worsen over time. There are other factors besides foot pain, however, that often factor in when deciding whether to have bunion surgery, and we go into those below.

Reasons to Consider Bunion Surgery

In general, if your foot is not in any kind of pain, you do not need a bunionectomy, or bunion removal. And although bunions are progressive, it’s not recommended to get bunion surgery to simply keep them from getting worse. This is because preventive care and proper shoes can often prevent the need for surgery. There are situations, however, that do tend to mandate bunionectomies, and they are as follows:

  • Significant foot pain that limits everyday activities, including walking and wearing reasonable shoes. Severe bunions can make it difficult to walk more than a few blocks without significant pain, even when wearing comfortable athletic footwear.
  • Chronic inflammation and swelling of the big toe that does not improve with rest, proper footwear, or medications.
  • An inability to bend and straighten the big toe.
  • Absence of pain relief even when changes to more comfortable footwear have been made.
  • Absence of pain relief despite the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen and naproxen. It should be noted, however, that the level to which NSAIDs control toe pain varies greatly from individual to individual. 

What Does Bunion Removal Entail?

A bunionectomy typically involves two steps. Step one is cutting the ligament on the inside of the big toe to loosen its inward pull. Step two is cutting off or shaving down bone. As with all surgeries, one size does not fit all when it comes to bunionectomies. The procedure will vary depending on your unique body structure. As Dr. Nik will tell you, bunion surgery should not be done for cosmetic reasons – as tempting as that may be – as pain can develop in the affected toe after surgery when there was none prior to surgery. 

How Long Does it Take to Heal After Bunion Surgery

Another reason to avoid getting a bunionectomy for cosmetic reasons is the recovery is fairly intense. In fact, you should plan to stay off your feet altogether for 3-5 days after the procedure, and a walker or crutches should be used at first. Your stitches will need to be removed about two weeks after surgery. You may need a postoperative shoe or cast for protection depending on your situation. You can expect to resume normal walking within 2-6 weeks with the help of physical therapy.

Ice packs and pillows will be your best friend, and you should make sure to grocery shop and pick up any prescriptions prior to the procedure. A compressive wrap will also help to decrease the swelling. And, as with any surgery, strict adherence to your post-op instructions will speed up your recovery time.

If your bunion pain has been extreme as of late, consult with Dr. Nik to find out if bunion surgery might be in your best interest. Dr. Nik is also skilled in pediatric podiatry, and he incorporates a bunionectomy procedure that avoids breaking any bones.