Most physicians see surgical intervention as being a last resort treatment option. Nonetheless, there are some times when surgery is clearly indicated to address a problem before it escalates into an issue that significantly impacts the overall quality of life. Bunion surgery is one of these procedures that will provide the best results with early intervention.
What Is A Bunion?
A bunion is a bony bump or protrusion that develops on the joint at the base of one or both of the big toes. It often develops when the big toe pushes against the toe next to it. Things like frequently wearing tight-fitting shoes, foot stress, and arthritis can accelerate how the bunion progresses.
Common Bunion Symptoms
Symptoms of a bunion tend to develop gradually over time. This includes things like:
- A gradual deformity at the base of the toe
- A noticeable yet subtle change in the angle of the big toe
- Pain surrounding the bunions and the associated bones
- Increasing stiffness and reduced mobility in the joints of the big toe
Early Treatment For Bunions
There are a few things you can do to reduce your chances of developing a bunion or to help slow the process. Many of them also help manage the discomfort and pain that a bunion can cause. This includes:
- Wearing loose-fitting shoes
- Increased padding in the foot, shoe, or sock
- Not wearing shoes when you don’t have to
- Taking over-the-counter pain medications
A physician might recommend other measures such as:
- Wearing special shoes designed to ease bunion discomfort
- Using special bunion pads to reduce discomfort caused by friction
- Splinting or taping the affected big toe in a neutral position
- Using custom orthotics to help relieve pressure on the bunion to correct biomechanical flaws
Don’t Procrastinate Bunion Treatment
Reducing bunion discomfort and the inevitable progress starts with taking an early, proactive approach. The longer you wait to get help for your developing bunion the longer you might be able to go without needing a surgical correction.
When Is Bunion Surgery Needed?
Assuming that you have already tried conservative measures, with minimal progress or effectiveness has completely waned, you will likely start to experience increasing discomfort in the affected toe as well as the surrounding tissues. This will likely start to impact your daily activities and your overall quality of life.
If your bunion has gotten to the point where it’s painful to walk or you can’t wear shoes anymore the only viable option is likely bunion surgery. Though you certainly don’t have to wait until this extreme to seek surgical intervention for a problematic bunion.
What Is Bunion Surgery?
Also known as an “Osteotomy” this traditional form of bunion surgery involves precisely cutting the affected bones in the big toes and possibly other surrounding structures. They are then carefully realigned along a two-dimensional plane. This is designed to restore the normal shape and function of the foot normally.
Though it’s worth noting that with some bunion the instability in the foot or toes that caused the initial problem, could lead to another bunion problem a few years later on down the road. This is even more likely to be an issue if you waited a long time before treating your bunion.
Surgical Intervention For Severe Or Recurring Bunion Problems
With a more severe bunion or a bunion where the underlying instability cannot be 100% remediated by an osteotomy a more significant procedure known as arthrodesis might be called for. This is the artificial induction of joint ossification that essentially fuses all the related bones.
In some cases, the defect causing the misalignment issue might be treated by a special procedure known as a “Lapiplasty.” It surgically repositions the misaligned bone as well as any rotation in the surrounding bones to return them to their anatomically correct position. This helps to secure the joint responsible for causing the initial instability to prevent a bunion from recurring. One of the great things about Lapiplasty is that it is one of the least invasive surgical procedures to correct a bunion and it also has a relatively short recovery time compared to the Arthrodesis and Osteotomy procedures.
What Is The Recovery Time After Bunion Surgery?
The three different bunion procedures have different post-operative recovery times. Depending on the individual and the severity of the problem physical therapy and a walking boot might be required.
With a lapiplasty, the patient is usually up and walking within a few days. Most people can return to their job within one to two weeks while wearing a surgical boot. At around six weeks post-op, most patients are back walking in comfortable shoes. Though it may take three to four months before they can return to high-impact activities or sports with a lot of jumping, like basketball.
In the case of an osteotomy, the individual might be able to resume their full activities after three to six months. Most patients start physical therapy around six to eight weeks after osteotomy surgery. Though osteotomy requires significant bone healing time before more strenuous weight-bearing exercises can begin.
After an arthrodesis procedure, the recovery time can take anywhere from several weeks to as long as a full calendar year. The recovery time is heavily influenced by the amount of alteration that was done to the bones, as well as the general health of those bone tissues.
The longer you wait to have your bunion addressed the more likely you are to suffer complications, as well as an increasingly longer recovery time. At the same time, bunions are truly one of those things where an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Wearing loose footwear, applying pads, and seeing other preventive measures from your physician will go a long way toward prolonging the need for surgical intervention. Still, this isn’t the sort of thing that you can put off forever. Even with the most diligent attendance to preventing it, a bunion will likely need surgery one day.
Though if it is caught early, you might be able to treat the underlying instability with a simple, fast-recovering procedure like lapiplasty, rather than a more invasive arthrodesis or osteotomy.