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Bunion Surgery: The Complete Guide

Are you interested in learning about bunions and bunion surgery? If so, you’ve come to the right place.

We’ll start this article off by talking about what bunions are. Then we’ll talk about whether bunion surgery is right for you.

Overview of Bunions: What Are They?

A bunion is bony bump that develops on the big toe (specifically, on the joint at the base).

As the bump grows larger, it begins to press against the neighboring toe. This causes the surrounding skin to become swollen, red, and sore.

Patients often make their symptoms worse by wearing tight shoes or socks. Remember- not all bunions are the same.

Doctors categorize them based on their severity, shape, and size. As a rule of thumb, the wider the angle, the more severe the diagnosis.

Bottom Line: At the base of the big toe, there’s a joint. When a bony bump forms here, it’s called a bunion.

Causes of Bunions

The two most likely reasons for getting bunions include:

  • Genetics
  • Footwear

If you’re genetically susceptible to getting bunions, then there’s not much you can do. However, you can control what you wear on your feet.

Doctors and researchers believe that tight shoes may increase your chances of developing a bunion. Shoes that are pointy, as well as high heels, can also put you at an increased risk.

Bottom Line: The two most common causes of bunions are genetics and tight/pointy footwear.

Progression and Pain

Do bunions get bigger overtime? If so, how quickly? In a perfect world, we’d have an answer.

Unfortunately, since every patient is different, there’s no way to know for sure.

Some bunions progress very, very slowly, while others take many years to become significant. With that said, do all bunions cause pain?

No, in fact some don’t hurt at all. There’s no clear correlation between the size of the bunion and the pain you experience.

Bottom Line: Bunions progress at different rates. Also, some bunions cause pain while others don’t.

Should You Have Bunion Surgery?

bunion surgeryYou don’t have to get bunion surgery, but in some cases, you might not have a choice. Here are the common reasons people get it:

  • Extreme Pain
  • Inability to Walk
  • Shoes No Longer Fit
  • Bunion Growing Larger

If you’re suffering from chronic pain, or if you’ve lost your ability to walk because of a bunion, it’s probably best to get it removed.

Bunion surgery, for the most part, has a good long-term outlook and most patients recover fully within 6 weeks.

Bottom Line: If you’re suffering from a lot of pain, and if you can’t walk because of your bunion, then you should probably get surgery.

Bunion Surgery Recovery Time

bunion surgery recovery timeOn average, patients will recover from a bunion surgery within 6 weeks or so. In rare cases, it can take up to 8 months to fully heal.

The recovery time depends on your age, and whether you have any preexisting medical conditions.

Also, whether you’re following post-surgery protocols (icing, rest, etc.) will influence recovery time.

Here’s the general recovery process patients go through:

  • Stage 1: Surgical Boot: To prevent your stitches from getting wet, and to protect your foot, you’ll be given a surgical boot to wear after your surgery.
  • Stage 2: Support Brace: After a while with the surgical boot, you can officially graduate to a support brace. It’s more freeing but still limits your mobility.
  • Stage 3: Crutches: In this stage of the bunion surgery recovery process, you’ll be using crutches. However, you’re still not fully recovered.
  • Stage 4: Walking: After using the crutches for a certain amount of time, you’ll be allowed to walk normally again. This will vary from person to person.

There are things you can do to speed up the process. For instance, during the early stages after surgery, rest is very important.

At some point throughout the recovery process, your doctor may have you take physical therapy.

This should also aid in speeding up healing. In less severe cases, it’s possible to fully heal and be back to normal in as little as four weeks.

Bottom Line: The four stages of bunion surgery recovery are surgical boot, support brace, crutches, and finally, normal walking.

Is Bunion Surgery Painful?

There will probably be some pain and inflammation following your bunion surgery.

While the procedure is pain-free, some patients feel pain afterwards. You can take pain medication to help ease the pain while you heal.

The first few days after the surgery are typically the worst. After a week or so, the pain should die down significantly.

If the pain is overwhelming, ask your doctor for stronger anti-inflammatory medicines.

Bottom Line: The first few days after a bunion surgery are usually the most painful, but this will vary from patient to patient.

How to Prevent Future Bunions

While you don’t have much control over your genes, you can control what you wear on your feet.

Make sure that you’re not wearing excessively tight-fitting shoes and/or socks.

Many doctors and researchers believe that this is a common cause of bunions.

It’s also believed that excess “pronation”, or rolling inward of the foot, can be a cause of bunions.

These tips won’t guarantee that you won’t develop this condition, but it should reduce your risk.

Bottom Line: You can reduce your risk of getting bunions by not wearing tight-fitting shoes/socks, as well as by not pronating your feet while running and walking.

1 Comment

  • My sister has bunions on her feet. It seems like she inherited them because my father also has them. It’s good to know that if her bunions seem to be increasing in size, it may be a good idea to consider surgery.

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