When Do Bunions Require Surgery?

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When Do Bunions Require Surgery?

Bunions can be a real pain. If this common foot deformity prevents you from living your life to the fullest, it may be time to find a solution to relieve your pain. Learn if surgery might be the best option for you.

If you’ve noticed that there’s a lot more friction against your big toe when you’re walking around, it’s possible you’re developing a bunion. Bunions are caused by swelling around the joint of your big toe and can result in tremendous pain when you put pressure on your foot. 

While there are at-home remedies you can try to ease your pain, you may need next-level care. Nathan Hansen, DPM, at Hansen Foot & Ankle, can determine if your bunion needs surgery or if there’s another option that’s right for you.

Where did my bunion come from? 

If you have a bunion, your genes are likely the culprit. 70% of patients with bunions have close family members who have had them. 

Bunions could also develop from wearing shoes that are too tight or from walking in a way that puts abnormal pressure on your toe. If you wear high heels, much of your weight is on the ball of your foot, pushing your big toe sideways and placing extra pressure on your toe joint. Eventually, this could move the regular position of the bone, tendons, and ligaments resulting in the bunion deformity.

Bunions develop over time. It’s possible that you won’t notice any changes until your foot begins to rub against your shoe at the base of your big toe or until your big toe starts to turn inward toward your other toes. 

Is surgery necessary?

If your bunion is new and not very painful, there’s likely no need for surgery yet. Dr. Hansen may offer moderate treatment options to help combat the effects of your bunion. 

However, if the bunion has already caused symptoms like a moderate to severe foot deformity where your big toe is leaning toward your other toes, or you’re in quite a bit of pain when you walk, you will probably need surgery.

Exploring treatment options 

If your bunion isn’t causing pain or interfering with your daily life, nonsurgical treatment may stop its progression. 

If you’re in pain from a long day of walking, rotating between heat and ice packs can help relieve it. Over-the-counter or prescription pain medications are also viable options. 

Investing in proper footwear is a must. Your shoes should have a wide area for your toes, so avoid high heels and any other pointy-toed shoes. You also need good arch support, so shoes like flip-flops and flats aren’t recommended.

Another footwear treatment option is custom orthotics. These custom insoles are made in a lab and are specifically designed to correct faulty foot mechanics. They relieve pressure on your big toe and correct your walking gait. You can take these custom orthotics with you to a shoe store. Increasing your shoe size may be necessary to accommodate the orthotics. 

Most of these treatments are effective for those with newly formed or small bunions. Large, painful bunions typically require surgery.

What to expect when surgery is needed

If Dr. Hansen concludes you do, in fact, need surgery, you have options. Some include removing inflamed tissue and part of the bone to straighten the toe. 

A more substantial approach is called a bunionectomy. In this procedure, Dr. Hansen breaks your toe to straighten and reposition it. It also includes loosening and tightening ligaments in your toe once it’s back in place. Dr. Hansen may also need to fuse bones together to make sure your bunion doesn’t make a reappearance. 

Get expert help for your bunions. Call our office at 425-365-0319 or request an appointment online today.