If you’re reading this blog, chances are you’re starting to get worried about that bulging bump forming at the base of your big toe.
Of course, “starting to get worried” comes at different times for different people. Many people don’t seek treatment until their feet are so misshapen—and their pain is so severe—that they can no longer perform day-to-day activities successfully.
(We hope you don’t wait that long.)
Fortunately, bunions can be fixed, and you don’t have to live with the pain or deformity. Read on to learn more about how we can help you finally get rid of those bunions for good.
Can I Get Rid of My Bunions Non-Surgically?
The short answer, we’re afraid, is no.
Bunions are considered a progressive bone deformity. In short, that means the following two things are generally true:
- The condition will slowly get worse over time. Sometimes this process can take months; more often it takes several years. The bump on your foot will get larger. The big toe will drift further and further out of place, until it possibly even crosses over the adjacent toe. The arthritis in the joint, and the pain you feel when walking or wearing shoes, will also get worse.
- Once the bunion starts to form, there’s no way back besides surgical reconstruction. Any bump that’s already there isn’t going to get any smaller. The best that you can hope for with conservative treatments is to slow down the rate of the progression, manage your discomfort, and maintain your mobility to the greatest extent possible.
So, Does That Mean I Need Surgery?
Not necessarily, no.
Bunion surgery is elective, meaning that you and your doctor can mutually decide if and when the time is right for a surgery.
Although conservative treatments won’t reverse a bunion’s course, they may provide significant pain relief and, as we said, slow the rate of progression. If these measures are sufficient in allowing you to maintain you desired lifestyle, then you may decide that surgery is not yet worth it.
Strategies such as wearing roomier shoes, taping and padding, custom orthotic inserts, physical therapy and laser treatments can all help you manage the discomfort of a mild bunion, and potentially even delay its progression to more moderate and severe stages.
Bunion Surgery: The Only True Way
If you want to restore the full normal shape, appearance, and function of your feet, bunion surgery is ultimately the only choice you have.
We will do everything we can to help our patients manage their pain in the meantime and delay surgery if possible, but ultimately most people with bunions will require one eventually.
Not all bunion surgeries are the same. There are several possible surgical options, each with their own pros and cons. Dr. Danciger will talk through all your options with you so that the two of you can select a procedure that is best for your situation.
Some examples of bunion procedures include:
- Cutting the misaligned metatarsal and toe bones so that they can be realigned, then held together with internal hardware (plates, screws, etc.) so that it can heal in the proper position. This is called an osteotomy, and it’s the most common approach.
- Removing the arthritic joint surfaces, fusing the bones together, and holding them together with internal hardware so that it can heal. This is called arthrodesis, and it may be a better choice for patients suffering from severe arthritis, or those who have had a previous unsuccessful surgery.
- Removing the enlarged bony bump from the toe joint. This is called an exostectomy (or sometimes a simple bunionectomy). Since this procedure does not correct the cause of the bunion or the misalignment itself, it is usually performed in combination with either an osteotomy, a transfer of tendons and ligaments to reinforce the joint, or both.
Some people are able to walk right after a bunion surgery, using a post-operative surgical shoe or walking cast. Others will require a period of total non-weight-bearing activity, supported by crutches or a roll-about walker. It all depends on the type of procedure performed and your specific post-op care needs.
How You Can Help
It’s important to remember that successful surgical results don’t just depend on the skill of the surgeon.
Dr. Danciger has been fixing bunions for decades and you are in great hands. But your ability to prepare yourself for surgery, as well as follow all post-surgical instructions carefully, will help you heal faster and ensure the best possible results.
After any surgery, your body will need time to recover. (For bunion surgery, that process can last anywhere from 6 weeks to 6 months, depending on the type of surgery, your health status, and other factors.) In addition to limiting or avoiding weight-bearing activity, you will need to protect the incision site from infection and follow a defined rehabilitation plan carefully.
Ways you can make the process easier on yourself—and therefore increase your odds of a highly successful recovery—include the following:
- Set up sleeping quarters on the main floor (if your bedroom isn’t there already) to cut down on the need to navigate stairs.
- Stock up on consumable supplies (non-perishable food, toilet paper, etc.) and try to prep some meals in advance to minimize the need to make shopping trips during recovery.
- Lay out clothes and put frequently-used items within easy reach.
- Coordinate with family or friends so that they can provide assistance as needed during the day, at least during the first few days after your surgery.
- Carefully follow all Dr. Danciger’s advice and instructions during your recovery period and call us immediately if you have any problems or questions.
An expert surgery followed by dutiful post-operative care is the best, and in fact only, way to fix your bunion.
And while it might sound scary, the truth is that bunion surgeries are highly successful the vast majority of the time and can help you prevent years of pain and disability. Compared to the few weeks you’ll spend in recovery, we’d call that a huge bargain!
If you’re sick of your bunion pain and want effective options for managing or fixing it, please call Dr. Harvey Danciger in Palm Desert today. You can reach our office at (760) 568-0108 today.