When Should Bunions be Operated On?

Bunions are a very common foot problem. In fact, over 20 percent of all adults have them. A bunion happens when the big toe starts to lean toward the second toe, rather than straight ahead. This eventually results in the well-known bunion “bump” on the outside of the big toe.

Although they can cause pain and discomfort, not all bunions require surgery. Many can be effectively managed with the help of your podiatrist and proper home care.

Treating Bunions Without Surgery

If you’re not having extreme pain and are able to carry on with most of your activities, one of these options may work well for your bunion treatment:

  • Getting the proper shoes. Wearing high heels or shoes with a narrow toe box can rub against the bunion and make it worse. Choose comfortable, supportive shoes that are wide enough for your feet.
  • Cushions or pads. You may find relief if you use a special pad or cushion on the bunion to help avoid friction and irritation.
  • Changes in exercise. If certain activities such as running cause more pain, find alternatives that are easier on your feet. Swimming and biking are often good choices.
  • Ice and/or anti-inflammatory medications. Icing the area several times a day and using medications like ibuprofen can help when the pain is bothering you. This will bring down inflammation and make you more comfortable.
  • Orthotics. Your podiatrist may recommend a special insert for your shoe to help relieve bunion pain.
  • Foot exercises to avoid stiffness.
  • A foot splint you wear at night to help align the foot properly.

When Surgery is Needed

Bunion surgery may be considered if the options above aren’t working for you. People who are generally good candidates for surgery:

  • Have significant pain that interferes with daily life. For instance, you can’t walk more than a block without pain even with the correct shoes and padding.
  • Have a foot deformity that results in the big toe “crossing over” the second toe.
  • Have constant swelling in the bunion that doesn’t get better with ice and medications.
  • Can’t straighten or move their big toe.

About Bunion Surgery

As with any surgery, you should weigh the risks of surgery and the potential benefits. For people who cannot enjoy daily life due to bunion pain, surgery is often well worth the time needed. There are different techniques available to treat bunions, but the goal of any surgery should be to properly realign the toe and relieve pain. Your podiatrist can talk with you about which surgery might work for you, and what you can expect during and after the procedure.

Do you have a bump on the side of your big toe? Have you been told you have a bunion? Don’t ignore this problem, as it often gets worse without proper care. Contact our office to find out how we can help you get relief!

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