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Should You Consider Surgery For Your Bunions?

by Stella Robinson

Bunions, those sometimes painful growths on the joint of your big toe, can range from a minor inconvenience to a crippling condition. There are several surgical options for correcting a bunion, but they are usually elective procedures and they aren't always necessary. Determine whether surgery is a good option for you so you can discuss treatment plans with your doctor.

When Is Surgery a Good Option?

Surgery isn't generally recommended if your bunions don't cause you any pain or impact your daily life. Consider surgery only if the following applies to your condition:

  • You have difficulty walking due to pain

  • You cannot comfortably wear shoes

  • Your big toe will not straighten and attempting this is painful

  • You have constant swelling that interferes with walking or footwear

  • Your big toe begins slanting toward your other toes, which can throw of your balance and result in further toe deformities.

How Successful Is Surgery?

Success rates vary greatly, depending on the severity of your bunion and your overall health. Generally, surgery results in less pain, but it won't result in pretty feet. Successful surgery will correct the underlying joint problem that has lead to the bony growth, but not necessarily relieve any damage that has already occurred. You may still have a visible swelling or bunion area, but it won't be as painful.

Bunions can return, even after a surgical fix. Scarring is also a possibility. In some cases, nerve damage may occur or you may experience stiff joints at the surgical site afterward.

What Can You Expect?

Your doctor will decide which type of surgery is most likely to relieve your pain and discomfort. Common surgical procedures include:

  • Realignment of the big toe. This is usually the choice when the toe won't bend or is slanting in the wrong direction.

  • Removal of damaged joints. If the joint has become majorly damaged, the surgeon may remove the entire joint or parts of the bone.

  • Tendon realignment. The tendons surrounding the big toe sometimes become overly tight due to a bunion, which prevents you from flattening the toe properly. Realigning and stretching these tendons can repair the problem.

  • Surgical removal of the bony material. In some cases, the surgeon can remove the bony material that is the root cause of the problem, thus freeing the joint and tendons.

Most bunion surgeries are out-patient procedures, so you will go home the same day. Recovery from the surgery generally takes between two and six weeks, although there can be a longer wait depending on the personal factors and the specifics of the procedure. Talk with a clinic, like Atlantic Foot & Ankle Group, to learn more about bunion care and surgery.