Joel Kowski, DPM
Foot and Ankle Clinic
Problems with bunion deformities are one of the most common foot issues I see in my podiatry practice. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions and answers about bunions and their treatment.
What is a Bunion?
A bunion (also referred to as hallux valgus or hallux abducto valgus) is often described as a bump on the side of the foot at the base of the big toe. But a bunion is more than just a bump. The visible bump actually reflects structural changes in the bony framework of the front part of your foot. The big toe leans toward the second toe, rather than pointing straight ahead. This throws the bones out of alignment— producing the bunion’s “bump.”
Are bunions hereditary?
Bunions are most often caused by an inherited mechanical and structural fault of the foot. It is not the bunion itself that is inherited, but certain foot types that make a person prone to developing a bunion. Although wearing shoes that crowd the toes won’t actually cause bunions, they sometimes make the deformity get progressively worse and more painful.
Will my bunion get worse?
Because bunions are progressive, they don’t go away, and will usually get worse over time. Not all cases are alike. Some bunions progress more rapidly than others.
Is it better to have it fixed now, or should I wait?
When the pain of a bunion interferes with daily activities, it’s time to discuss surgical options with your podiatrist. Together you can decide if surgery is best for you.
What type of surgery is performed?
A variety of surgical procedures are available to treat bunions. The procedures are designed to remove the “bump” of bone, correct the changes in the bony structure of the foot, and correct soft tissue changes that may also have occurred. The goal of surgery is the reduction of pain and structural deformity. In selecting the procedure for your particular case, your podiatric surgeon will take into consideration the extent of your deformity based on the x-ray findings, your age, your activity level and other factors. The length of the recovery period will vary, depending on the procedure or procedures performed.
Can I avoid surgery?
Sometimes observation of the bunion is all that is needed. In many other cases, however, some type of non-surgical treatment is needed. These include:
- Changes in footwear: Wearing the right kind of shoes is very important. Choose shoes that have a wide toe box and avoid those with pointed toes or high heels.
- Padding: Pads placed over or around the area of the bunion can help minimize pain and pressure.
- Activity Modifications: Avoid activity that causes bunion pain, including standing for long periods of time.
- Medications: Oral non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, may be recommended to reduce pain and inflammation.
- Icing: Applying an ice pack several times a day helps reduce inflammation and pain.
- Injection Therapy: Although rarely used in bunion treatment, injections of corticosteroids may be useful in treating the inflamed bursa (fluid-filled sac located around a joint) sometimes seen with bunions.
- Orthotic Devices: In some cases, custom orthotic devices may be provided by your podiatrist.
Is the surgery painful?
The amount of pain experienced after bunion surgery is different from one person to the next. Most patients will experience discomfort for three to five days. If you closely follow your post-operative instructions, you can help minimize pain and swelling after your bunion surgery. Pain medication is typically prescribed post operatively.
What type of anesthesia is involved?
Most bunion surgeries involve local anesthesia with intravenous sedation. That means your foot will be numb and you will be given medications to relax (“sleep”) during the procedure. Typically general or spinal anesthesia is not required.
How soon can I walk/work after surgery?
It depends on your bunion and the surgical procedure selected for you.
Can the bunion come back?
Yes, there is a risk for bunion recurrence in some cases. Patients can help prevent this by following their doctor’s instructions to wear arch supports or orthotics in their shoe.
Will my insurance company pay for the surgery?
As it is a structural deformity causing pain, surgery is covered in most cases.
Dr. Kowski – Foot and Ankle Clinic
For information or to schedule an appointment:
715-235-4274 | 800-359-4421 | www.footankle-clinic.com
Dr. Kowski sees patients in Menomonie, Baldwin, Durand, Eau Claire, Neillsville, Rice Lake and Stanley.