When talking about bunions and bunion treatment, it’s important to set clear definitions. That’s because there can be many options on the table when considering it.
So let’s discuss what “fixing” a bunion might really mean.
When most patients bring this term up, it is in regard to correcting the deformity itself, and not necessarily just addressing the symptoms that it causes. In other words, they want the “bony bump” gone for good and the natural appearance of the toe to be restored.
We can and certainly have provided this type of correction, but there is only one real route to go about it.
Bunions Are Not a Simple Fix
Unfortunately, the nature of a bunion means that there is no way to correct it without the use of surgery—and even then, the solution might not last forever.
These factors can be traced to the cause of the bunion itself: an instability in the joint located at the base of the big toe (also known as the metatarsophalangeal or MTP joint). This may be an inherited instability from your family line, or aided by trauma, arthritis, or other conditions to the joint.
Depending on the root cause and factors surrounding it, some patients can have their bunion surgically corrected but still have that instability. That gives them a risk of their bunion redeveloping over time.
So yes, “fixing” a bunion can be complicated; but that doesn’t’ mean it is out of the question. Far from it! We just need to consider several factors before bunion surgery is recommended as a possibility.
When is Bunion Surgery a Good Consideration?
Surgery is never an option to take lightly, for any condition. It is often only recommended when it is clear that non-surgical options would not provide the amount of relief a patient needs from pain and discomfort.
In general, you may be a good candidate for bunion surgery if:
- You have had bunion pain or discomfort for more than 1 year.
- The pain or discomfort you experience affects your daily life, interfering with your work or activities that you enjoy.
- Conservative options you have tried have not proven to be much help for your situation.
Additionally, we may have to consider additional factors such as age, the overall stability of your MTP joint, and other health conditions you may have.
For example, a severe bunion belonging to an older patient may be a more likely candidate for surgery than a less severe bunion on a younger patient. Even if it is suspected that the bunion may redevelop after surgery, the need for relief may be so great that it is still well worth the procedure.
One reason not to have bunion surgery, however, is purely for cosmetic reasons. If the symptoms of a bunion can be significantly addressed via non-surgical methods, then we would not recommend having surgery just to improve the appearance of the foot. As we mentioned, surgery of this type is not something to take lightly.
What to Expect from Surgery
The number of different types of bunion surgery that can be performed may be surprising. Around 100 kinds of procedures are documented, and there is no one clear type that is the best for all situations.
The procedure we would recommend for you will largely depend on the underlying causes of your bunion, its severity, what kinds of problems it is causing you, and related health factors we must consider.
A surgical bunion procedure might include one or more of the following elements. They may be performed during the same procedure, but some cases might require more than one surgical session.
- Realigning one or more bones to correct the angle caused by the bunion and create a more normal positioning.
- Cutting away pieces of bone to create a straighter alignment or simply eliminate the bump.
- Removing swollen tissues from around the MTP joint.
- Replacing the joint with screws or metal plates.
- Fusing the joint entirely (often performed in severe cases to reduce joint pain, as a last resort).
We will fully explain all the facets of an intended procedure with you, as well as answer any questions you may have. We want to ensure you are fully informed before you decide whether to move forward.
Following surgery, you will likely need to rest for several days. Please be sure you have prepared to accommodate yourself for this, with access to everything you need with minimal effort. We can provide you advice on how to best do this, and having a loved one helping you is ideal.
Most patients of bunion surgery will need to wear a special walking boot for about 6 weeks following surgery, in order to protect the site. You may be required to walk a special way that keeps weight on the heel of the injured foot, or use crutches outright.
What is important is that all instructions are followed precisely through the course of your recovery, until you are fully cleared to resume all activities.
Even after recovery, we may recommend additional follow-up appointments and measures. We may suggest physical therapy to build strength and conditioning in the foot and joint. We might also recommend custom orthotics and changes in footwear to help offload excess pressure from the joint and help slow or prevent the new progression of a bunions. Other potential treatments might be suggested, and we will of course discuss them with you.
The Difference Between Fixing and Addressing
The best recommendation for treating a bunion might not always include “fixing” it. Our primary goal is always to address the pain and other symptoms of the bunion in the ways that will best suit a patient’s situation and needs. This might include surgery, but it often relies on conservative treatments instead.
Whatever the case may be, do not just let your bunion go without the care it can receive! Contact either of our offices to schedule an appointment and see how we can provide you added relief.
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