What Are My Alternatives To Bunion Surgery?
Nearly a quarter of adults ages 18 to 65 suffer from bunions. This painful, unsightly condition can be inconvenient at best and debilitating at worst. It is no surprise then that many individuals consider bunion surgery to correct their feet.
Here are six things you need to know about bunion treatment:
1. You may not actually need surgery. Sometimes there are options that haven’t been explored yet that may provide relief from bunion pain or discomfort. An obvious but sometimes overlooked option is simply changing your shoes. This doesn’t necessarily mean changing the pair you are wearing that cause pain in a day but looking at how you shop for shoes in general. Selecting shoes with a wider toe box, avoiding high heels and wearing custom orthotics and toe pads are ways to alleviate bunion pain. While some may think that bunions will cramp their shoe style savvy, rest assured that there is an abundance of stylish shoes that offer wide foot options.
2. Some treatments are non-surgical. Cortisone shots and pain medication can effectively treat bunion pain. Remember, not all bunions are created equal. They come in mild, moderate and severe varieties. Surgery is often performed for moderate to severe cases, but mild bunions are usually managed with pain management.
3. When surgery is required, it’s important to realize that recovery takes time. In the case of a bunionectomy, while you will most likely leave the hospital the same day as your surgery, the recovery time is much slower. You can expect to wear a boot on the foot for three to four weeks, and total recovery takes up to two or three months. Some discomfort can be managed with over-the-counter pain medications, and you should expect significant bruising and swelling, as well as some stiffness and scar tissue that should be rehabilitated with physical therapy or daily foot exercises when cleared by your surgeon. It is generally recommended that if you have bunions on both feet, surgery is done on one foot at a time so you are able to move about with one unaffected foot. In some cases, patients may elect to have surgery on both feet if circumstances allow; naturally, recovery for both feet is a bit trickier, and having a good support system to help you move around is important.
4. If you leave a bunion untreated with some of the more conservative methods, the bunion may get a lot worse over time. In these cases, a different type of surgery may be required. A podiatric surgeon may be required to replace the entire toe joint or fuse bones together. More pins and hardware have to be used, and as a result, recovery is longer. You’ll spend time in a cast and have to use crutches or a wheelchair. The takeaway is this: Don’t wait to see a podiatrist to explore treatment options!
5. In addition to recovery time, you can expect a few follow-up visits to your podiatrist to evaluate any post-surgical complications that may arise. This means you may want to plan your surgery around any travel plans, holidays or upcoming events. Infection is the most common type of complication. Most insurance carriers cover bunion surgeries since the condition is classified as a foot deformity, so these follow-ups are generally covered also, with the exception of your co-pay, co-insurance or deductible.
6. Last but not least, a bunion surgery doesn’t necessarily mean that your bunions are gone forever. If you are genetically prone to bunions, there is a possibility that it might recur, even with surgery and a textbook recovery. For this reason, wearing the proper shoes, investing in custom orthotics if you are flat-footed or have high arches to reduce the chance of recurrence is key.
Be sure to discuss all the options with your podiatrist prior to committing to surgery. In most cases, a combination of treatments is attempted for pain management and prevention of the bunion growing larger. When surgery is required, working with your surgeon to create the best recovery plan can go a long way in making sure that you have the best success.
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