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When Bunions Require Surgery and What to Expect

Like eye color, facial features, and height, bunions — that painful deformity at the base of your big toe — run in families. If you were unfortunate enough to inherit bunions, and your pointy, high-heeled-shoe habit certainly didn’t help the cause, you may be wondering if you need bunion surgery to relieve the pain and inflammation. 

At his practice, Cary B Chapman, MD, an experienced orthopedic surgeon, helps men and women in Manhattan and Staten Island, New York, and the surrounding communities, with nonsurgical and surgical treatment for painful bunions. Find out when bunions require surgery and what you can expect. 

Nonsurgical treatments no longer relieve discomfort

Typically, when you come to our office with bunion pain, Dr. Chapman assesses the severity of your condition and recommends nonsurgical treatment methods, including physical therapy, custom foot orthotics, and special pads to provide added cushioning for the bunion and other toes. You might also try wearing roomier shoes to prevent your foot from rubbing, and activity modifications for less aggravation of your big toe. 

Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory pain relievers can also help reduce swelling and temporarily relieve discomfort. When these more conservative treatments no longer provide the relief you need, bunion surgery may be a last-resort treatment option. 

Your bunion is causing other foot deformities

Sometimes, if the bunion on your big toe is severe, it forces your big toe inward toward your other toes. The big toe might even cross over on top of the toe next to it. This could cause even more discomfort, especially when you try to wear shoes. 

A bunion can also prevent you from bending or straightening your toe. As a result, you might have difficulty walking. While bunions tend to get bigger over time, if they don’t cause pain or another foot problem, you may be able to slow their progression with nonsurgical treatments.

Are you a candidate for bunion surgery?

Typically, Dr. Chapman recommends bunion surgery when you experience foot pain that interferes with your daily activities, even when you wear comfortable shoes. Chronic inflammation and stiffness of the big toe may also indicate a need for surgery. It’s important to keep in mind that if you simply desire bunion surgery to improve the appearance of your foot, this procedure may not yield the cosmetic results you want. 

What to expect with bunion surgery

There are several types of bunion surgery that Dr. Scortt may use to realign your big toe joint, relieve pain, and correct any other foot deformities. Bunions vary in shape and size, so Dr. Scortt selects the most effective type of surgery for your individual needs. 

Some different types of bunion surgery include:

Dr. Chapman explains which surgery he recommends for your specific type of bunion and other symptoms.

Bunion surgery recovery

After surgery, you’ll have bandages and possibly a splint to hold your bones in place as they heal. You’ll visit Dr. Chapman on a regular basis for several months so he can check your progress and make sure your foot is healing properly. 

Pain medications help relieve discomfort and you’ll need to keep your foot elevated for a few days while you apply ice to keep the swelling down. You may experience some mild swelling for six months to a year after bunion surgery.

Dr. Chapman advises when you can put weight on your foot again and what types of physical therapy and exercises help your foot heal and your toes stay in their properly aligned position. If you follow your recovery instructions as advised, you shouldn’t have any complications. The majority of men and women who undergo bunion surgery experience a significant reduction in foot pain and better mobility. 

If bunion pain is interfering with your daily activities, give Orthopaedic & Sports Medicine Consultants of New York a call today or schedule a consultation online. 

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