A Guide to Bunion Removal, Toe Straightening, Aftercare, & Recovery
Welcome to the complete guide to bunion removal, toe straightening, aftercare, and recovery. This comprehensive guide will tell you everything you have to know about bunion surgery and its effects.
Aside from surgery, this guide covers alternative therapies that can help tackle the pain that bunions cause. Besides the treatments available, you’ll also find out about the causes of bunions and their symptoms. We’ll also look at ways to reduce discomfort, such as using Superfeet Green Heritage Insoles to cushion your feet from impact.
Lastly, you can find some tips related to recovery after bunion surgery or ways of getting by without going under the knife at all. The very first thing we have to try to understand, however, is what are bunions and how are they caused?
Table of Contents:
- 1 What Are Bunions & Why Do They Form?
- 2 What Are the Different Methods of Bunion Treatment?
- 3 A Guide to Bunion Removal Surgery
- 4 Are There Any Potential Complications?
- 5 How Much Does Surgery Cost?
- 6 Who Should Have Their Bunions Removed?
- 7 How Long Does Recovery Take?
- 8 How to Get Bunion Pain Relief
- 9 What Is Toe Straightening for Bunions?
What Are Bunions & Why Do They Form?
First things first, a bunion, also known as a Hallux Valgus, is a deformity of the big toe. This is where the toe tilts to the side, over towards the smaller toes. Because of this deformity, a lump starts to appear at the side of the foot.
This can sometimes result in a small fluid build-up over the top of the lump. Bunions are caused primarily by wearing shoes which are too tight. This is evidenced by the fact that bunions rarely occur in cultures where shoes are rarely worn. If you currently have shoes that don’t fit properly, you can use a professional shoe stretcher to add more space to your footwear.
That being said, bunions are in fact hereditary; they tend to run in families. It is not inevitable that if your parents had bunions, then you will too, but it is possible. They are most common in women and tend to affect people with flexible joints.
The problem that a bunion presents is that they cause pain when squeezed into shoes. If you carry on wearing shoes that are too small, it can make your bunions worse. This can cause bunions so large that it can be difficult to find shoes that fit at all. It can also cause hard skin to form on the feet, that needs removal.
Not only that, but the big toe can force the second toe upwards and make it rub against the top of the shoe. And because the big toe won’t function properly, the rest of the toes have to work harder. This causes pain at the ball of the foot as you walk, also known as metatarsalgia.
Given what we now know about bunions, we can think about how to treat them. It turns out that there are a huge variety of different ways to treat a bunion. None are perfect, but all can help to alleviate pain or correct the symptoms of bunions.
What Are the Different Methods of Bunion Treatment?
Given that bunions can be so painful and cause such inconvenience, you’ll likely want to know if bunions can be reversed. The good news is that it is entirely possible to cure bunions, through both natural and surgical means. Given the variety of options, there is a potential treatment that is suitable for everybody.
- There are many ways to prevent bunions from getting worse. First, it is possible to simply prevent the bunion growing by wearing looser, more comfortable shoes. However, this may not necessarily shrink the bunion, nor will it realign your big toe.
- Other methods of alleviating bunion pain include pads to go over the bunion, and heel supports. The pads prevent your shoe or sock from rubbing painfully against your sore bunion, enabling you to walk. Heel supports help to prevent and treat metatarsalgia, the heel pain which is caused by bunions.
- The most common method of complete bunion removal is to have it surgically removed. This procedure may result in needing to wear a cast or even make use of a wheelchair. Nevertheless, surgery continues to be a popular option for bunion sufferers in the U.S. and worldwide.
There is no one-size-fits-all operative method, and what kind you receive depends on your deformity. Before you have surgery, you can consult with an orthopedic surgeon who can advise you on this matter. Your doctor will advise you on whether surgery is your best option, or whether natural removal is preferable.
A Guide to Bunion Removal Surgery
The option of surgery should be considered a last resort for treating your bunion. In fact, there are some methods, discussed later, for treating your bunions without surgery. But if you do think that surgery is right for you, this guide should help you through it.
There are some different surgical techniques for treating bunions, depending on your particular condition. Your surgeon will take into account the degree and the angle of the deformity of the big toe. However, the general method of surgery is normally roughly the same.
In the course of your bunionectomy, the surgeon removes a small amount of tissue and repositions the bone. You may receive a general anesthetic, although the surgeon could specifically numb your foot, leaving you awake. Depending on the extent of your injury, your surgeon may install wires, screws or plates in your toe.
Are There Any Potential Complications?
Unfortunately, bunion operations are not invariably successful, and they can bring on potential complications.
- The big toe will more often than not become stiffer after surgery, although your pain will recede. Metatarsalgia can become worse because of this, and the transfer of weight to the ball of the foot.
- Infections and slight nerve damage are two potential problems that can be caused by bunion surgery.
That being said, research points to 85 percent of people undergoing bunion surgery leaving satisfied with results. The only problem is the potential cost of a visit to the hospital, something that many people dread.
How Much Does Surgery Cost?
The question many of you will be asking is does Medicare cover bunion surgery? The answer is that Medicare considers bunion treatment ‘medically necessary treatment of foot injury or diseases.’ All people with Medicare Part B medical insurance are covered for bunion surgery.
- Important: As for costs, you will pay 20% of the total bill for bunion surgery, while Medicare pays the remaining 80%. You may have to make a co-payment for additional costs incurred while at the hospital. The average cost for bunion surgery is around $5500, so your bill should total around $1100, plus co-payments.
As for private medical insurance, bunion surgery cost is normally low because it is covered by most insurers. This is because they recognize that bunions lead to a sedentary lifestyle and worse health later on. You can ask your insurer for an estimate or use an online tool to estimate your potential payments.
The exact cost of bunion surgery can vary according to where you live, and where you receive treatment. Where you live determines which hospitals and doctors are available for you to use. For instance, if you live in an urban area, you are likely to have far more choices available.
Bunion removal surgery isn’t for everyone, whether or not it is the most comprehensive solution. Your doctor may not recommend bunion surgery to you before you at least try other methods.
Who Should Have Their Bunions Removed?
Firstly, we recommend bunion surgery (or a ‘bunionectomy’) if your deformity is not too advanced. If your bunion becomes overlarge, your surgeon may need to replace your toe joints, making surgery difficult. Needless to say, your recovery time will be far longer than the usual patient would have to face.
Rather, you should have bunion surgery before this point, while the condition is only just developing. At this point, the deformity will be easier to treat and far easier to prevent from reoccurring. This will mean an easier recovery and less of a medical bill once treatment is completed.
During your diagnosis, your doctor is more likely to refer you for surgery if you suffer extreme pain. If you have difficulty walking, or cannot fit your foot or feet into a shoe comfortably, you may also be a candidate for bunion surgery. This will be determined by a physical examination by your doctor.
Moreover, your doctor is unlikely to refer you for surgery without trying other methods of bunion removal first. If you have tried other methods, and your bunion is still too painful, you may be referred. These methods include orthopedic shoes, pads and comfort supports which can alleviate some of the pain.
These treatments are worth trying for their own sake, as they can have their own beneficial effects. They can address the causes and the symptoms of bunions themselves. But if they don’t get rid of your bunion to your satisfaction, then surgery is definitely for you.
The recovery process after bunion surgery can be long and hard. But armed with all the information you need on what to expect, and what you can do to move it along, it won’t be so bad.
How Long Does Recovery Take?
Bunion surgery pain can be severe during the recovery stage. You should also remember that if you are genetically prone to bunions, then your bunion may reoccur. The only thing to do at that point is to have surgery again, which could be costly and painful.
You should know that your surgery won’t be the last time you see a doctor about your bunion. In fact, you should expect a number of follow up visits with your surgeon, to discuss your recovery. There is a chance of infection and stiffness, which left untreated, could make your bunion worse over time.
- The period required for a full recovery period after surgery is typically somewhere between six weeks and six months. As for bunion surgery recovery tips, you should avoid exerting yourself too much. You should allow your foot time to heal, and consult your doctor as to when to begin exercising.
- Stitches used during bunion surgery are typically removed after around 7 to 21 days. Your next doctor’s visit will be to have any pins sticking out of the foot removed. This is normally a couple of weeks after stitches are taken out, but could be six weeks later.
- The original incisions and bone removals will have begun to heal at this point. But the removal of any pins will make your feet painful again for a brief period. At this point, you will still find it too painful to walk until your feet recover from surgery.
How Soon Can I Walk?
If your bunion was operated on after it had advanced to a later stage, recovery might be hard. In fact, you may be unable to walk, and need crutches and a cast or even a wheelchair. So if you undergo surgery, be prepared for the fact that your life may be put on hold.
The recovery process could be a long one if you required extensive surgery. You will be wearing a cast for at least five or six weeks after your surgery. Certain procedures require you to wear special shoes for eight weeks to protect your foot as it recovers.
In other procedures, particularly those where a large amount of bone is removed, recovery is harder than usual. In cases like these, no weight whatsoever can be put on the foot for at least six weeks. Afterwards, you will slowly train your foot to bear your weight once more.
Other recipients of bunion surgery are luckier. For some, recovery only takes four to five weeks, after which point, they can start to wear regular shoes again. For these people, they can resume most normal activities after six to eight weeks.
This all applied equally to driving after bunion surgery, which will be impossible just as long as walking. But after bunion surgery exercises can help to speed up the recovery process, helping you to walk sooner.
What Are the Best Recovery Exercises after Surgery?
There are some post-bunion surgery exercises that can work wonders for your deformed big toe. These can improve flexion in your toe, and therefore allow you a greater range of movement than before. They can also further improve blood circulation to the toes and bone realignment whether you have had surgery or not.
- The first exercise you can begin with is a simple stretch to improve flex in your big toe. You begin with an elastic band and wrap it around both of your big toes. You then turn your toes outward until you feel your muscles begin to stretch. If you can hold this position for a minute or more, it will begin to improve your posture. Your bones will start to realign, and assume their more natural position pointing forwards as opposed to inwards. For further benefits, repeat this exercise for fifteen minutes several times every day.
- Aside from exercising the toes, it is advisable to begin a small routine to exercise the body. You should aim to improve your fitness after having been sedentary for so long. This could be through any form of popular cardiovascular exercise, like walking or cycling.
If your doctor hasn’t recommended you for surgery, or you just want to give other options a chance, you’re in luck. There are all sorts of home remedies that can treat crooked toes and bunion pain.
Some of these methods are more ‘natural,’ some are not. But they all mean you may not have to have surgery after all.
How to Get Bunion Pain Relief
- Prescription painkillers can treat the pain of bunions, although you should be aware of their risks. While they work wonders for defeating pain, they carry the risks of addiction and even overdose.
- Creams, rubs, and oils applied to the bunion are popular, as are teas, which are ingested. A warm oil massage can improve blood circulation and reduce inflammation around your painful bunion. It can also help stretch your muscles, which can become cramped and painful wearing tight shoes. Warm castor oil, coconut oil or olive oil is recommended, with the bonus of moisturizing the skin.
- Essential oils can also help prevent and treat bunions due to their anti-inflammatory nature. Chamomile is an excellent herbal remedy and can either be applied to the bunions or drunk as tea.
- Relieving bunion pain may be possible with a cold compress. A cold compress is simply ice wrapped in a thin cloth and applied to the painful area. This should numb the nerve endings around your bunion to reduce pain.
- The most obvious method of treatment is to change the shoes you wear for more comfortable ones. This can immediately stop your bunion from becoming any worse than it is already. But while this may prevent it getting worse, it does not reverse the symptoms.
Bunion removal without surgery is notorious for being difficult to judge and of varying efficacy, so do beware. However, they are highly unlikely to result in any adverse effects, so you may think them worth trying.
For anybody who doesn’t trust these methods, bunion symptoms can also be addressed through toe straightening.
What Is Toe Straightening for Bunions?
It is less to do with treating pain, and more to do with getting your confidence back. Crooked toes make many people feel uncomfortable, but some treatments can help. Even without having to resort to surgery. Here are seven advantages of using toe straighteners.
Toe straightening can be something you look to achieve after surgery. It can also be something you look to do in conjunction with home therapies. They are a form of treatment for any form of crooked toes, including bunion deformations.
The first form of toe straightener available is a simple loop that repositions the toes. The loop wraps tightly around one toe and attached to another, pulling the first toe to the side. Over time, this can correct the positioning of the toe, although it won’t work on the big toe. One of the best options that we’ve found is the Yogatoes Gel Toe Stretcher Separator.
To push the big toe out to its more correct positioning, toe correctors can provide a solution. Rather than pull the toes together, they aim to space the big toe out from the first toe. Over time, this can correct and reverse the crooked toes that are an embarrassing symptom of bunions.
Alternative to Toe Straighteners
A more expensive solution that works is a full medical-grade splint worn at night. This splint pushes the big toe outwards more forcefully and is attached to a specially made bandage. They can be used before, after or without bunion surgery to improve the appearance of the toes.
You can also reduce pain and enhance circulation with an Electric Vibrating Foot Massager. Again, it won’t solve the problem, but it could make life easier, perhaps while you’re waiting to undergo a surgical procedure.
Toe straightening can reverse one of the corollary symptoms of bunions, but it cannot solve their underlying issue. If you continue wearing shoes that are too tight, for instance, then your toes will become crooked again. They may alleviate pain in the short term, but not in the long term.