What to Expect After Bunion Surgery

Bunions are a prominently irritating condition that can develop in individuals of all ages, but are more common for some than others. A bunion can cause so much pain that everyday activities like walking can become difficult. While there are many options for treating bunion pain, bunion correction surgery is the only way to truly correct a painful bunion.

Fortunately, today’s modern bunion correction surgery options are less invasive and can lead to quicker recovery times, like the industry-leading bunion correction technology our podiatrists use at East Village Foot & Ankle Surgeons.

Surgery of any kind can be disruptive to your routines. Even minimally invasive surgery should be done with careful consideration and preparation. Learn more about what to expect after bunion surgery, how to have the most successful bunion surgery recovery and more!

How do bunions develop in the first place?

There are two main reasons why some people develop bunions and others don't: genetic predisposition or biomechanical imbalance. If Mom, Dad, Grandma or Grandpa had bunions, there is a chance that trait will be passed down. Secondly, bunions can appear anytime, from adolescence through retirement, due to repetitive squeezing or rubbing of the big or pinky toe, which can be caused by tight footwear. The pressure causes constant rubbing of the affected joint and can be extremely painful. As with all foot conditions, the affected area will become more prominent over time.

Women tend to be more likely to develop bunions than men, and some studies have shown that wearing high-heeled shoes can exacerbate the problem. Additionally, women are more likely to develop arthritis, which can also lead to bunions.

Types of Bunion Correction Surgery

Surgery is by far the most effective way to correct a bunion, and fortunately, modern bunion correction surgery options can offer better longevity and less pain during recovery. Our podiatrists at EVFAS will discuss each surgical option with you so together, we can choose the best choice for your condition.

Bunion Osteotomy

A bunion osteotomy is a procedure designed to realign the affected toe joint. During this surgery, the physician makes a bone cut to realign the joint, then fixates the area with screws to maintain correction. The procedure typically takes an hour to perform, and patients often go home the same day.

Bunion Arthrodesis

Bunions can be a result of arthritic joints. For such patients, bunion arthrodesis is the best surgical treatment option. The procedure involves replacing the damaged areas of the affected joint with plates, screws, or wires. Bunion arthrodesis can also correct severe cases of bunions and treat patients who have undergone a failed surgical procedure in the past.

Bunion Exostectomy

A bunion exostectomy is the least common treatment option for patients who suffer from bunions. The procedure removes the bump on the affected joint entirely but doesn't treat the joint itself. Therefore, this procedure ignores the underlying condition. Physicians often use it with other methods to fully treat one's condition.

When is it finally time for bunion surgery?

If you begin to notice the signs and symptoms of bunions, we suggest scheduling an evaluation with an experienced podiatrist right away. This condition is progressive, so getting treatment early is the best way to avoid pain or discomfort and prevent worsening conditions. After an examination by our physicians at EVFAS, we will work directly with you to decide on a treatment option. If pain and discomfort are prominent, you may qualify for bunion correction surgery.

How to Prepare for Bunion Surgery

For any surgery, the preparation and the recovery process can cause patients a great deal of anxiety. Each surgical patient will have a consultation appointment to discuss all surgery information prior to his/her procedure. This appointment takes place at your local East Village Foot and Ankle location with a surgery coordinator and your surgeon.

This is a great opportunity for the patient to review instructions, discuss their tailored recovery plan and for the physician to answer any questions. Each surgical patient should leave their pre-surgical consultation feeling completely comfortable and knowledgeable about their surgical plan. EVFAS encourages surgical patients to include a family member or friend (preferably someone who will be assisting them at home after the procedure) to join them for the pre-operative appointment.

Top Tips for a Quick & Successful Recovery After Bunion Surgery

Preparing yourself and your home for post-bunion surgery will help you transition into recovery smoothly. Below are some of our podiatrist's top tips to help patients prepare for bunion surgery recovery:

  • Please consult with your physician. They can tell you everything you need to know to fully prepare for recovery after bunion correction surgery. We recommend asking your bunion surgeon for input on the best shoes for bunion surgery recovery. They might come in handy when you first begin to partake in low weight-bearing activities.
  • Create an area in your home where you can recover comfortably. The first few days will require you to rest and relax, so ensure everything you might need is within reach. We also recommend you remain on one level to avoid stairs. Make yourself comfortable so you will be able to keep your foot elevated and avoid weight-bearing activities which will be easy if you already have everything you need nearby. You are welcome to be up for bathroom breaks and meals but should be resting the majority of the time.
  • Practice with crutches or a post-surgical shoe if you'll be using them. Using crutches can be challenging for many patients. Reduce the chances of falling or hurting yourself by practicing walking with crutches beforehand. Additionally, cleaning up clutter around the home before surgery can lower the likelihood of an accident.
  • Go grocery shopping for fresh foods and frozen meals before surgery. Cooking meals post-surgery might be challenging. Avoid long periods of time on your feet, like when cooking and save more time recovering by preparing meals before your procedure.
  • Acquire essential recovery supplies like ice and extra pillows. The early stages of recovery will involve a lot of icing and elevating to prevent inflammation. This is important for the treated area to heal properly. Keep a few extra pillows and ice packs near your recovery area so that you have easy access to them. Pro tip: Ask your surgeon about the polar care option and if it would be a good choice for you to use after surgery instead of ice packs.
  • Have your pain medication filled before surgery. Driving won’t be much of an option in the early stages of recovery. Avoid having to run unnecessary errands by picking up your medications before the procedure.
  • Think about how you will shower or bathe after surgery. While stitches are in place you cannot get your bandage wet. If your bandage happens to inadvertently get wet, the risk of infection is higher. Bathing with your foot outside the bathtub or having a shower chair/bench in place will reduce the probability of a wet bandage. Sponge baths are also a great option while you are in the beginning stage of recovery. Pro tip: Ask your surgeon about a shower seal to use in the shower after surgery.
  • Double check with your podiatrist if you’ll need physical therapy after surgery. If your physician recommends exercises to do at home, ensure you are performing them correctly. Physical therapy can restore range of motion in your foot and ankle and prevent pain when you begin to walk around in normal footwear again. Depending on your type of bunion surgery, physical therapy may be recommended.

Recovery After Bunion Surgery

Bunion surgery is an outpatient procedure, meaning patients can return home the same day as the procedure. Bunion surgery recovery time does depend on the patient and their unique case, though in all cases it takes some time before patients can walk again and return to an active lifestyle. Here is what to expect after bunion surgery:

  • Recovery Weeks 1-3: In the first few weeks post-surgery, patients are limited to low weight, but commonly no weight-bearing activities. Stitches are typically removed two to three weeks into recovery. Typically, patients are in a postoperative shoe or boot during the beginning of the recovery process.
  • Recovery Weeks 4-8: This is when most patients will ease into weight-bearing activities. By week 8 (if not sooner), patients can start wearing regular shoe wear and resume regular activity.

Discuss Your Bunion Correction Options with the Podiatrists at EVFAS

Our podiatrists at EVFAS offer effective and convenient bunion correction surgery to patients across Iowa. When you schedule an evaluation with one of our podiatrists in Des Moines, Mason City and Pella, they will thoroughly evaluate your condition because we know each patient’s case is unique. We'll then work with you to determine a personalized treatment plan to get you back on your feet! If we determine surgery is the best treatment option for you, our doctors will ensure you’re fully aware of what to expect after bunion surgery. Contact us for answers to any questions you might have about bunions and the treatment options we provide at EVFAS. Or, schedule an evaluation with one of our local podiatrists today.