Do You Really Need Bunion Surgery? (Maybe Not!)

by | Jan 31, 2020

It’s true: at Eugene Foot and Ankle, we perform a lot of bunion surgeries. Sometimes a surgical correction really is the only good way forward, and fortunately Dr. McCourt has a ton of experience with a wide variety of surgical techniques.

However, that doesn’t mean we just try to push every patient with a bunion onto the operating table as soon as possible. On the contrary—if we think your bunion will respond to conservative treatments, we will absolutely exhaust those options first.

The question, then, is how do you know if your bunion is one that requires surgery?

The Determining Factors for Surgery

Of course, we can’t answer the question for you without actually examining your foot first. But what it really comes down to is pain. Specifically, pain within the joint.

In other words, if your toe can still bend and move without joint pain, and your ability to walk and enjoy your activities isn’t impaired, there’s a good chance non-surgical options can help you greatly—at least for the time being.

Conservative treatments won’t actually restore a normal shape to your foot; only surgery can do that. But in the early stages of a bunion, they may be able to keep you from developing painful corns or calluses, and may even slow the rate that your bunion progresses.

On the flipside, if the big toe has become arthritic and you’re experiencing discomfort that impedes your life on a daily basis, surgery is probably going to be your best bet.

The most important lesson you can take away from this is that you should never wait to seek professional help for your bunion!

If you don’t make an appointment with us until after your bunion has become large and painful, surgery may already be your only remaining option. If you see us at the first sign of trouble, we can usually help you non-invasively, and quite possibly delay or even prevent the eventual need for surgery.

Conservative Bunion Treatment Options

As we said, conservative treatments will not fix the shape of your foot. Bunions are a progressive bony deformity, and that means no amount of stretching, rest, or any other non-surgical tactics will put the deformity back in place.

However, our number one concern is that you are able to pursue the active lifestyle you wish to live without being limited by pain or lack of mobility from your feet. If conservative treatments allow you to do this despite your bunion, we will absolutely support them.

Depending on your situation, we may recommend options such as:

  • Shoe gear adjustments. You may need to toss out your old shoes and replace them with pairs that are a little wider, and/or offer more support and cushioning to keep weight and pressure away from your bunion.
  • Orthotic inserts. If new shoes aren’t enough, you may need an appropriate insert to further keep weight away from the misaligned joint. Depending on your situation, we may recommend either prefabricated orthotics (we carry a selection in our office) or custom orthotics. Our custom orthotics are fitted using a laser impression for maximum precision.
  • Nonmedicated padding. Over-the-counter pads or cushions can help cushion your bunion from friction against the inside of your shoe. This can ease pain and reduce your risk of developing blisters or corns.
  • Pain medication. To help ease symptoms, we may recommend over-the-counter pain medications (used as directed). If we feel it is appropriate for your situation, we may also consider a cortisone injection for longer-term pain relief.

What If I Do Need Bunion Surgery?

As we said in the beginning, Dr. McCourt performs a lot of bunion surgeries, so you are in very good hands.

To be clear, it is important that you go into surgery with a clear and reasonable set of expectations. Surgery isn’t a magic bullet. It’s going to take at least several weeks to fully recover. You will probably need some physical therapy, and you may still need orthotics or wider shoes afterward. And we can’t promise that the bunion won’t eventually come back. No surgeon can.

That said, rest assured that the bunion surgeries we perform have stood the test of time. They have very high overall success and patient satisfaction rates. In the vast majority of cases, the long-term result is significantly reduced pain and the ability to live a full, active lifestyle after your recovery.

We perform bunion surgery on an outpatient basis, right from our office or a nearby surgical center. Typically, local anesthesia is used, although you may request general anesthesia or sedation medication.

Depending on the type of procedure used, you may require the use of crutches for a short period of time, although more minor surgeries may only require a surgical shoe. Recovery timetables can vary quite a bit from person to person, but on average you should be able to return to at least mild-to-moderate weightbearing and fitness activities by about the fifth week, with activities gradually increasing from there.

For a much more detailed look at what a typical recovery looks like, be sure to check out our webpage on bunion surgery.

Remember: Don’t Wait!

Despite the fact that surgery is usually highly successful, we’re guessing that, all things considered, you’d probably prefer to avoid it if possible. And so do we!

Don’t wait until your bunion is painful and arthritic to seek help. The sooner you see us, the better your odds that nonsurgical interventions will prove successful for a greater period of time.

To book your appointment with us in Eugene, OR, please call (541) 683-3351 today. Alternatively, you may complete our online contact form and a member of our office will follow up with you.

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