Bony Bump On Your Toe?
A bunion is a painful growth that develops at the base of the big toe. A bone spur forms at the foot of the metatarsal bone due to a misaligned MTP joint. Overstretched tendons and ligaments around the joint can also contribute to the bunion. Bunions can even cause the big toe to bend inward, causing pain, numbness, and calluses. Walking in shoes like high heels is also uncomfortable. Bunions can become so painful that surgery is necessary via a bunionectomy.
What’s behind that bunion?
About 1 in 4 Americans under 65 have a bunion, with many being women. These growths often form due to long periods of standing, poor footwear, or injury. However, most cases develop from arthritis, years of poor walking form, or the foot’s natural shape. These reasons have led doctors to believe that bunions may be hereditary. There are many treatment methods, including bunion pads, braces, orthopedic shoes, and shoe inserts. Some patients also benefit from pain medication and steroid injections. For many bunion sufferers, these options only bring temporary relief. A bunionectomy is the only long-term solution.
Treating your bunion with surgery
With a bunionectomy, the orthopedic surgeon’s goal is to realign the big toe. A doctor must remove the bony growth at the base of the toe. Surgery may also involve the removal of additional bone to straighten the joint. Surrounding tendons or ligaments causing the bunion may need to be adjusted accordingly. There are different methods available, and the one that works best depends on the bunion’s size.
Going under the knife
On the day of surgery, the patient will receive a combination of general and local anesthesia. From there, the surgeon makes an incision on the side of the big toe. The bony growth is shaved off on the outside of the joint. Further down the metatarsal bone, the surgeon may remove a piece of bone to straighten the toe. The surrounding tendons and ligaments may be cut to accommodate the new position. Screws or staples will hold the toe in place, followed by stitches and bandages. Bunionectomies are outpatient procedures, meaning the patient can leave the same day.
Recovery starts almost immediately through elevating the leg and taking pain medication. The patient may be on crutches for at least 2 weeks. After the surgeon removes the stitches, the patient must use a protective boot for several weeks. In some cases, recovery time can take as long as 6 months. Physical therapy may help with alignment and flexibility. After recovery, wearing orthopedic devices and changing footwear can prevent future bunions.
Will it help with my pain?
Most patients will feel pain relief after the toe heals completely. Results suggest that bunion surgery has a 95% success rate. However, there are some risks, including joint stiffness, infection, and surgical failure. In rare cases, the bunions can return. Speak with the surgeon about any risk concerns. Bunions can be painful and can stop anyone from enjoying physical activity. With a bunionectomy, a pain-free, active life is on the horizon.