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When Is Surgery the Best Option for a Painful Bunion?

One-third of adults in the United States develop a bunion at some point, making it one of the most common foot conditions. While the hard bump beside your big toe isn’t dangerous or painful for everyone, frequent or increasing pain does happen. In some cases, the pain is excruciating.

If you’re bothered by a painful bunion, the right surgical technique may be just what the doctor ordered. At Oexeman Foot and Ankle, PLLC, in Chicago, Illinois, Dr. Stephanie Oexeman and her team provide customized treatment plans and procedures to relieve your pain, improve your mobility, and stave off worsening issues.

Let’s delve into bunion pain, including surgical options for good candidates.

What causes painful bunions

A bunion can develop for several different reasons. You might be genetically prone to the foot deformity, especially if one of your parents had flat feet. Bunions can also appear at birth, as a childhood deformity.

Foot stress and injuries from accidents, overuse, and poor-fitting shoes – especially high heels and narrow shoes – may also contribute. Rheumatoid arthritis is linked with bunions too.

Once you have a bunion, wearing tight, narrow, or steeply-angled shoes can trigger or exacerbate pain. Meanwhile, your bunion may feel warm, tender to the touch, and swollen. You might also notice a red hue. 

When to consider bunion surgery

If your bunion is considerably painful and doesn’t respond sufficiently to conservative measures such as improved footwear, shoe inserts, and ice packs, you may be a candidate for surgery. Surgery may also help prevent bunion complications, like bursitis, hammertoe, and metatarsalgia.

Surgery isn’t recommended for non-painful bunions. If your bunion pain interferes with your daily life or well-being, however, we may recommend it. 

Surgery options for a painful bunion

Your best bunion surgery option will depend on the severity and shape of your bunion, as well as your symptoms. 

Techniques your surgery may involve include:

  • Removing part of the bone to straightening your big toe 
  • Realigning one or more bones in your foot to correct the abnormal angle 
  • Removing the swollen tissue that surrounds your big toe joint
  • Permanently joining the bones of your foot

You might benefit from one of these techniques, or from a combination of two or more. 

Dr. Oexeman specializes in minimally invasive bunion surgery and Lapiplasty® 3D Bunion Correction™. Minimally invasive surgery uses smaller or less intense tools and smaller incisions. And 3D bunion correction involves rotating the affected bone rather than cutting it. Both of these options bring fewer surgery-related risks.

After bunion surgery

No matter what type of bunion surgery you have, realistic expectations are important. After your procedure, expect that full recovery may take up to six months, during which you’ll be able to gradually put more weight on your affected foot. That’s the case for both minimally invasive and traditional options. A walking boot or crutches can help you get around early on.

And moving (literally) forward, you’ll probably need to wear supportive, comfortable, and well-fitting shoes indefinitely to prevent further problems. The good news is that your pain should stay minimized by doing so.

To learn more about bunion pain or find out if you’re a good candidate for surgery, call our office or book an appointment online today.