Added by Anne Beckett on 06.02.2023

Bunion Surgery - What is it?

Our feet are very flexible structures composed of bones, joints, muscles and soft tissues. They allow us to stand upright and perform activities like walking, running and jumping.

A foot is divided into three parts: 1) The forefoot consists of the five toes which are created by the five longer bones in the foot. These bones are known as metatarsals; 2) The midfoot is a collection of bones which together form the arch of the foot. The bones here are the three cuneiform bones, the cuboid bone and then navicular bone; 3) The hind foot is the heel and ankle. The calcaneus or heel bone is the largest bone in the foot. The heel is connected to the calf muscle by the Achilles tendon and this is what allows us to run, jump and stand on our toes.

In simple terms a bunion, or to give it its proper medical name – hallux valgus – is a bump on the side of the big toe which can become very painful. How do you get rid of a bunion? Although there may be other means of relief, the only definitive ‘cure’ is bunion removal surgery, also known as hallux valgus bunion surgery.

What is bunion surgery?

This bunion correction surgery is a relatively simple process often conducted as an outpatient’s procedure, however any operation on the foot, like this bunion operation will, in the short term, limit the mobility of the patient.

Bunions have always been a problem for humans and the first successful foot bunion surgery was carried out in 1881 by Dr J.L. Reverdin, a Swiss surgeon. In fact, his procedure is till used today with some modifications. Bunion treatment surgery amounts to over 150,000 operations per year in the USA. Bunion removal is a highly successful procedure with over 95% of patients saying they would not only do it again but would recommend it to their family and friends.

Get the insurance for treatment abroad:


What is a Bunion?

The origin of the word bunion, meaning ‘enlargement’ comes from the Latin word ‘bunio’. About 10-25% of people have a foot bunion. During an archaeological dig in Cambridge UK it was found that about 27% of the skeletons from the 14th and 15th century had bunions, so a bunion is not a recent medical problem.

What is a foot bunion? A bunion or hallux valgus manifests itself as a bump on the side of the foot just below the big toe (or hallux). The problem occurs when some bones in the forefoot move out of place. This causes the tip of the big toe to start leaning towards the other toes. This, in turn, forces the joint at the base of the toe to become malformed and it sticks out and causes a bump on the side of the foot.

A bunion is typically associated with elderly women, but actually they can occur at any age and to all people. About 10% of sufferers are men and it is, also, not unknown for children as young as 4 or 5 years old to develop bunion foot.

Bunions are generally believed to be hereditary, so bunion prevention is difficult. Nevertheless, certain lifestyle changes and orthotics, like an orthopaedic bunion corrector, can alleviate the symptoms, especially the bunion pain.

A sore bunion, however, is not always a sore bunion! Similar conditions that may be mistaken for a bunion are:

  • Gout – a very painful condition which can affect any joint in the body, but is most commonly found in the big toe. Gout is caused by a buildup of uric acid in the joint. Usually gout can only be treated by prescription medication.
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis – this condition often begins in the smaller joints in the fingers and toes before progressing to the larger joints in the body. Ironically, rheumatoid arthritis in the big toe may eventually cause a bunion to form.
  • Osteoarthritis – generally caused by wear and tear in the joint. Again osteoarthritis may eventually lead to a type of bunion.
  • Bursitis – this is inflammation of the fluid-filled sacs that cushion the bones, tendons and muscles of a joint. Sometimes bursitis will resolve itself without any medical intervention.
  • Ganglion Cyst – the are painful only if they are pressing on a nerve. Their cause is unknown although they often affect joints which have been injured in the past. They usually resolve themselves.
  • Sesamoiditis – sesamoid bones lie under the big toe and continual excessive pressure on the ball of the foot may lead to them becoming inflamed. If necessary pain relief medication and steroid injections may be used to ease the pain.
feet

A bunion or hallux valgus is a bump on the side of the foot just below the big toe.

Tailor’s Bunion

A tailor’s bunion, sometimes referred to as a bunionette, is very similar to a normal bunion, except that instead of appearing at the bottom of the big toe, it appears on the opposite side of the foot at the bottom of the little toe. The fifth metatarsal – the bone at the bottom of the little toe either enlarges or expands outwards. This causes a bony lump to form and a ‘bunion on little toe’ is formed.

A tailor’s bunion is so called because hundreds of years ago, tailors would sit cross-legged on the floor with their little toe pressing against the floor. The continual pressure resulted in a hard bump appearing on the side of the foot by the little toe. So, for a tailor, bunion was a hazard of the job.

Nowadays, a tailor’s bunion can be caused by poorly-fitting shoes especially where there is an inherited foot structure problem. Other causes include: an inverted foot (leans to the outside), loose ligaments in the foot, a lower-than-normal fifth metatarsal bone and tight calf muscles.

The instructions for how to get rid of tailor’s bunion are more or less the same as for a normal bunion.

men feet and shoes on the carpet

Tailor’s bunion or bunionette, is very similar to a normal bunion, except that instead of appearing at the bottom of the big toe, it appears on the opposite side of the foot at the bottom of the little toe.

What Does Bunion Pain Feel Like?

Bunions tend to develop over a long period of time – sometimes years. Pain, as with any medical condition is a very individual thing. Everyone’s body reacts differently to pain signals and the severity of pain will always vary from one person to the next.

That having been said, in general, what does bunion pain feel like? Often, it will feel like a throbbing pain in the big toe sometimes extending into the ball of the foot. Where the bone is pressing against a nerve, there will often be shooting pains. Where the big toe has turned inwards and is pushing against, or is bent over the second toe, this may create pain in multiple locations. In addition, if the bump on the side of the foot protrudes and rubs against the side of shoes, this will also create pain at this place.

For some people the pain is constant, for others it comes and goes. It is often exacerbated when wearing shoes and/or walking. There may even be throbbing bunion pain at night.

Have you already booked a procedure abroad? Get protected for your trip.

Bunion Symptoms

Bunions form very slowly over time, very often over years, so pain is sometimes one of the earliest and most obvious bunion symptoms. Some other early signs of a bunion include swelling or redness around the big toe joint and stiffness and a restriction in the range of motion of the toe.

More visible symptoms of a bunion may appear later. A lump or a bump may appear on the side of the foot by the big toe and this toe may start bending inwards towards the second toe, even sometimes overlapping it. The skin may also become thickened at the bottom of the big toe and, when the big toe and second toe rub against each other this may cause calluses and corns to appear.

Tailor’s bunion symptoms are very similar except that the bunion appears at the bottom of the little toe, so on the opposite side of the foot. Due to the fact that it affects the little toe, there may be less visible deformity of the little toe in a tailor’s bunion compared to the big toe in an ordinary bunion. Remember, normal bunion symptoms big toe, tailor’s bunion symptoms little toe!

man feet in water

Pain is sometimes one of the earliest and most obvious bunion symptoms.

Bunion Causes

What causes a bunion? Exact bunion causes are, in fact, not 100% clear. It is widely believed that they are probably inherited, although there are several other contributive factors, all mainly concerned with putting pressure on the toe joint:

  • Style of shoe – shoes with high heels or very pointed toes put additional pressure on the foot around the toes.
  • Badly-fitting shoes – too tight or too narrow.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis – people with this condition have a tendency to develop bunions.
  • Gait – the way you walk, particularly in a badly-fitting shoe, can put additional pressure on the toe.

Tailor’s bunion causes are very similar including inherited or congenital structural disorders of the foot. Tightness in the calf may also lead to tailor’s bunion.

Criteria for Bunion Surgery - Candidate

How do you get rid of a bunion? There are many ways of controlling and managing a bunion as we will look at later in this article, nonetheless the  Even surgery, however, does not give a 100% guarantee that the bunion will not return at some later point in time.

There are two main reasons why bunion surgery takes place:

  • when the bunion has become so painful, that it limits a person’s everyday life. A painful bunion can affect a person’s walking ability and cause distress and sleepless nights due to the pain;
  • when deformity in the toes is either excessive and/or makes it very difficult to find shoes to wear.

Initially, doctors will usually suggest medication such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for bunion pain relief and offer other ways of how to treat a bunion. Only when these other avenues have been exhausted will they consider bunion help through surgery. Bunion surgery will not be performed for purely cosmetic reasons.

When to Have Bunion Surgery?

When is it time to get bunion surgery? Remember that the pain and discomfort of a bunion can be relieved in other ways than through surgery and the doctor will expect the patient to have tried these methods below before asking for bunion surgery.

  • Wearing footwear with wide toe boxes and refraining from wearing high heels which put pressure on the toes.
  • Placing padding over the bunion can prevent pain. Pads can be bought from chemists.
  • Try not to stand for long periods of time.
  • Apply an ice pack to reduce pain and inflammation.
  • Sometimes steroid injections can help with the pain.
  • Special orthotic devices may help such as shoe inserts and toe separators

When considering when to get bunion surgery, it is worth bearing in mind that the procedure will be painful, certainly in the short-term and in some minority of cases the foot may be quite painful long-term. Although bunion surgery is usually carried out as an outpatient procedure with local anaesthetic, it should be noted that any surgery carries a minimal risk.

Is Bunion Surgery Worth It?

Is it worth having bunion surgery? Bunion surgery is not an easy option, it may be panful, you may have to take some time off work and your life generally will be disrupted for a few weeks. However, for those people who are in daily pain and for whom pain relief medication and other alternative remedies is not working, then bunion surgery can only be a good thing.

Likewise those people, whose bunions are causing serious deformities in the feet and therefore causing problems with footwear, will also find some relief after bunion surgery.  Everybody’s body and needs are slightly different so the answer to the question – is bunion surgery worth it? – will be slightly different for everybody.

 

woman legs ant feet

The only way to get rid of bunion totally is by surgery.

 

Types of Bunion Surgery

There are, in fact, over 100 types of bunion surgery procedures or bunionectomies. Probably the three most commonly performed are osteotomy, exostectomy and arthrodesis. Sometimes they are carried out in tandem, for example, an osteotomy and an exostectomy together. Let’s look at these types of bunion surgery and see what the differences are.

Osteotomy – small cuts are made in the bone, and even sometimes a small piece of wedge-shaped bone may be removed, so that the toe joint can be re-aligned. Once straightened the break or breaks are fixed with pins, screws and plates.

Exostectomy – the surgeon simply removes the bunion (the ‘bump’) from the foot but does not carry out any re-alignment of the joint.

Arthrodesis – this procedure is used mainly for people suffering from arthritis in the toe joints. Arthritis is a condition where the cartilage between the bones in a joint diminishes so the bones start to rub against one another. The surgeon removes the rough surfaces of the bones and fixes them together with screws, wires and plates until the bones heal.

As with any medical procedure new types of bunion surgery are emerging. One of the newest bunion surgery techniques is the Lapidus Bunionectomy, also marketed under the names of Forever Bunionectomy and Lapidus Forever Bunionectomy. This type of corrective bunion surgery actually realigns the metatarsal of the big toe (bone) right back to the instep of the foot. It has been found that some bunions may be caused by two bones in the instep which are sometimes not flexible enough and, therefore, over time push the first metatarsal bone out of shape.

Tailor’s Bunion Surgery

Tailor’s bunion (bunionette) surgery is sometimes quicker, simpler and can involve less recovery time than for full bunion surgery. It is usually performed with a local anaesthetic administered in the area of the little toe or occasionally at the back of the knee. If possible, minimal invasive surgery or keyhole surgery is involved to make small fractures in the bones and realign them. Sometimes it is necessary to use pins and screws to hold them in place, sometimes it is not required. Total operating time is 30-45 minutes.

After tailors bunion surgery, recovery time is similar to or a little less than that for normal bunion surgery. Mobility will be restricted for 3-4 days and the patient may have to wear a surgical boot for up to 3 weeks. Crutches may be required for the first few days, but it depends on the exact location of the incision. Absolute total recovery will take 8-12 weeks, however most people can return to work within two weeks, depending on the nature of the work. The success rate for tailors bunion surgery is extremely high.

Scarf Bunion Surgery

Scarf bunion surgery, often in association with akin bunion surgery, is now probably the surgery of choice for those patients suffering from moderate bunion deformities. It is also sometimes known as scarf osteotomy.

The bunion surgery scarf osteotomy involves the surgeon making an incision in the foot between the big toe and second toe. This allows the release of the tight ligaments which are holding the toe out of alignment. The ‘bump’ on the side of the toe is removed and the big toe bone fractured and realigned so that it is straight. Sometimes, however, this is not enough to straighten the bone and a small wedge-shaped piece of bone may need to be removed. The removal of this bone is called akin surgery, or in this particular scenario, scarf akin bunion surgery. Scarf akin bunion surgery recovery is much the same as other bunion surgery recovery times. See our section on bunion surgery recovery for more information.

Minimally Invasive Bunion Surgery

Minimally invasive bunion surgery, also known as keyhole bunion surgery, is becoming more and more popular. Indeed, this technique is becoming more common in all types of surgeries. Bunion keyhole surgery, however, is more technically challenging for the surgeon. Full visibility of the area is sometimes compromised and the surgeon should have had special training in this procedure.

Minimally invasive bunion surgery is generally interpreted as an incision of up to ½” (1.27 cm) as oppose to a traditional bunion surgery incision of up to 6” (15.2 cm). The main advantage of this new minimally invasive bunion surgery is that it creates minimal disruption and trauma to the surrounding skin and soft tissue. Other advantages of keyhole bunion surgery is less scarring, a shorter operation time, less pain after the procedure and overall an easier recovery.

In theory, minimally invasive bunion surgery can be used for almost all the different types of bunion surgery, although it is not a good solution in every situation. The surgeon will decide whether for a particular case of bunion surgery, minimally invasive surgery is suitable. When it comes to minimally invasive bunion surgery, NHS will offer this type of operation where appropriate.

Laser Bunion Surgery

Laser surgery of any kind is associated with some of the most modern techniques in medicine. A laser creates a narrow, high-intensity light which is excellent for ultra-precise targeted cutting. It is used widely in cosmetic surgery for cutting through the skin and soft tissue and has the advantage of reducing bleeding.

Many people’s perception is that the bunion is purely a soft tissue growth on the side of the foot and therefore bunion laser surgery would appear to be a safer, quicker and more precise procedure than traditional bunion surgery. However, as we now know, a bunion is a bone issue and lasers are not good for cutting through bone. As of the time of writing bunion removal laser surgery is not available.

Technology is advancing in leaps and bounds, both within the medical area as well as in other areas. It seems highly likely that, at some stage in the future, laser bunion surgery may become a reality, but at the moment this bunion removal laser surgery does not exist.

Double Bunion Surgery

Double bunion surgery or bilateral surgery was popular some years ago for those patients who had bunions on both feet. The logic behind this was that, although the recovery period for bunion surgery both feet is longer and more difficult, for some people it would be preferable to two separate procedures each with its own recovery time. The overall recovery procedure for the two separate procedures would have been greater than the slightly extended recovery time for the double bunion surgery.

Recent years, however, have seen a shortening in the recovery time of bunion surgery, particularly with minimally invasive bunion surgery, so much so that it is no longer considered a good idea to perform double bunion surgery. What’s more the difficulties posed by not being able to walk on either foot for a short period of time, could create more complications.

Best Bunion Surgery

So what is the best bunion surgery? In truth only the surgeon can confirm the best bunion surgery for each patient. There is no doubt that minimally invasive surgery, with its shorter recovery time and smaller scars, is often a good choice. On the other hand, this type of bunion surgery procedure has its limitations and is not always suitable for every type of bunion. It is always a good idea to have a frank discussion with the doctor about the best bunion surgery.

man with banded feet

It is always a good idea to have a frank discussion with the doctor about the best bunion surgery fpr you.

Bunion Surgery Procedure

Depending on the general health of the patient, the doctor may want to do some tests prior to the bunion surgery procedure. This may include blood tests, heart/lung tests and advice on giving up smoking, if applicable. A bunion operation usually takes place, with a local anaesthetic, as an outpatient procedure with the patient going home the same day. Occasionally, the surgeon may decide that a general anaesthetic is required. In this case, the patient may have to stay a night in hospital just to check that they have no bad reactions to the anaesthetic.

Depending on the severity of the bunion and the remedial work to be done, the surgeon will make an incision near the affected toe (big toe or small toe) and perform the necessary procedure for bunion surgery.

How Long Does Bunion Surgery Take?

The answer to the question – how long does bunion surgery take? – can vary quite a lot depending on the type of bunion surgery being carried out and whether the surgeon has decided to use a local or a general anaesthetic. Most procedures last between 30 mins and 3 hours, with the average being around one hour. However, where the bunion is particularly severe and two or more procedures are required it can take longer.

Is Bunion Surgery Painful?

Does bunion surgery hurt? The short answer is – yes. Any surgery which cuts through skin, bones, tendons and ligaments will be painful. For the first few days after the procedure the patient will be either given or advised on suitable pain relief. The level of pain will vary from person to person and will also depend on the extent of the surgery. After 3-5 days the pain should diminish.

surgery

Bunion surgery is often an outpatient procedure.

Bunion Surgery Recovery

Recovering from bunion surgery will vary from patient to patient. The severity of the bunion and, therefore, the type of surgery performed together with the patient’s pain tolerance may all play a part in the recovery process.

After the bunion surgery the patient will be required to wait in the hospital/clinic until the anaesthetic has worn off. The incisions will have been stitched up or possibly stapled and the foot will have been bandaged. In some cases, the foot may also be in a plaster cast. It is essential to only change this dressing as advised by the medical staff – in the short-term this dressing is essential to keep the toe in the correct position. The wound and dressing should be kept dry, but showering is possible if a plastic bag is placed over the foot.

If applicable the stitches will be removed about two weeks after the surgery. The foot will, almost certainly, require some sort of support for the next six to twelve weeks. This could be in the form of dressings, a surgical shoe or a brace.

A good recovery after bunion surgery also depends on strict adherence to the instructions given by the doctor/surgeon concerning when the patient can put weight, i.e. stand, on the foot. Generally speaking, if weight is put on the foot too soon, the bones will move and become misaligned once again. The recovery from bunion surgery does vary depending on the patient and the procedure used. In some cases it is possible for the patient to stand on the foot immediately after the surgery, in which case a special surgical shoe or boot will have to be worn for a period of time. For many patients, however, there will be a period of time when they will not be able to place weight on the foot. This will usually mean using crutches for anytime from 2-8 weeks, although this timeframe will vary. Some people prefer to use a knee walker (or knee scooter) instead of crutches. This knee walker allows the patient to stand on their ‘good’ foot while resting the knee of the other leg on a platform on a non-motorised device with wheels. The user can propel themselves with their good leg/foot while resting their ‘injured’ leg.

The patient will also be given post bunion surgery exercises which will help to strengthen the toes and foot generally. Provided a patient sticks to the instructions of the doctor and/or physiotherapist, the bunion operation recovery should be very successful.

Tailor’s Bunion Surgery Recovery

Tailor’s bunion surgery recovery time is very similar to standard bunion surgery recovery. After the procedure the patient will be given a special hospital padded shoe, however walking on the foot will probably not be allowed for at least one week and sometimes up to six weeks. So crutches will be necessary immediately after the procedure.

For the first few weeks it is best to keep the foot elevated as much as possible and, when permitted, only walk in the special hospital shoe supplied. After six weeks patients should be able to put their whole weight on their foot and use their own shoes.

Those people with sedentary jobs can probably return to work after about two weeks, while more physical jobs will require a longer recovery time. Some mild swelling of the foot may persist for up to a year, although for most people, this will have disappeared after six months. Even though, most people are back to their normal life within three months, a full recovery from the tailor’s bunion surgery may take up to a year.

Recovery Time after Bunion Surgery

How long is recovery from bunion surgery? Bunion surgery recovery time will vary between patients. It depends on the severity of the surgery, how invasive it was, the general health of the patient and whether the patient adheres to the post-surgery instructions.

Older patients, for example, who may have other conditions like high blood pressure or diabetes, may need a longer time to heal completely. With minimally invasive bunion surgery, patients can sometimes walk immediately after the procedure, although with certain restrictions, whereas with standard surgery patients often have to wait two weeks. Sometimes other surgery on the foot is performed at the same time, for example for a hammer toe, and obviously this will also have an impact on the recovery time after bunion surgery.

Overall, however, the average bunion surgery recovery time is similar to the average tailor’s bunion surgery recovery time. Most patients are back to their normal life within three months but the full bunion surgery healing time may take up to a year.

Bunion Surgery Recovery Timeline

As mentioned earlier the healing process after bunion surgery, indeed after any surgery, is very much an individual thing. However, the following is an average bunion surgery recovery timeline.

 

Time

Activity

One week after surgery

The patient should take this time to rest after the bunion surgery. The feet should be raised as much as possible as this will diminish pain and swelling. A special surgical shoe/boot should be worn and most patients will need to use crutches to move around. Pain relief medication may be needed for some patients.

Two weeks after surgery

Although the patient may feel much better after the surgery, it is important to continue
not placing weight on the foot and keep it elevated as much as possible. Ice packs and gentle exercises will help to reduce the swelling. The dressing on the wound will still remain. It may be possible to return to work.

Three weeks after surgery

Wound stitches will have been removed, and for some patients, loose fitting shoes, like trainers, may be worn. Usually standing on the foot for up to 60 minutes is allowed. Elevation, ice packs (to control any swelling and pain) and compression hosiery are recommended.

Four weeks after surgery

More extended walking on the foot is allowed. Exercises should still be undertaken to control the swelling and preserve the range of motion.

Five weeks after surgery

More activity is allowed.

Six weeks after surgery

By this time, normal activity with the foot can be resumed with no restrictions. Light exercise is permitted. Driving is also permitted.

Eight weeks after surgery

All restrictions are lifted and normal shoes may be worn.

 

4 Weeks After Bunion Surgery – As can be seen by the above table, 4 weeks after bunion surgery is really the marker at which things really start to get back to normal. Most people will already be back at work, but there may still be swelling in the foot and, for some people only, there may still be residual pain. It is important to still maintain an exercise programme to combat this. Over-the-counter painkillers will probably be enough to control the pain. The remaining restrictions at this point are connected with not walking too far too soon and still ensuring the leg can be elevated from time to time. Driving is also not allowed.

How Long Does it Take to Recover from Bunion Surgery?

The recovery time for bunion surgery is relatively short especially considering the extent of the surgery and that it concerns the foot – a part of our body in almost constant use. Depending on the type of job, most people will back at their desk within two weeks and by 8-12 weeks life should be back to normal. For most people this will mean no further pain from the foot and much more mobility. Any surgery is major trauma for the body so even after the foot is back to normal the healing process internally will continue. This may take up to one year or more.

How to Reduce Swelling After Bunion Surgery

Swelling after bunion surgery is a natural response of the body to an injury. The problem is that too much swelling can cause extra pain and also make it more difficult to move around. In addition, foot swelling after bunion surgery can pull at the wound edges and slow down the healing of the wound. Here are a few tips on how to reduce foot swelling after bunion surgery:

  • Get plenty of rest after the bunion surgery and try to stay off your feet as much as possible for the first few weeks. Elevate the foot above heart level – try stacking up some cushions!
  • Use ice – cold therapy makes the blood vessels narrow and this in turn reduces the amount of inflammation and swelling. Special ice packs can be bought from chemist or a packet of frozen peas will do the job just as well. Cover the ice pack with a towel to prevent skin burns. It should be used for 10-30 minutes. Cold therapy is most effective in the first few days after the bunion correction surgery.
  • Compression works in a similar way to ice packs inasmuch as it restricts the blood flow and therefore the swelling. Compression can be achieved by bandaging the leg but it is much easier to buy some compression socks. These come in different ‘pressures’ – it is probably best to start with the lowest (Class 1) unless told otherwise by the doctor.
  • If necessary use anti-inflammatory over-the-counter painkillers like ibuprofen or aspirin. These will reduce the inflammation and therefore the swelling.\Use the appropriate walking device (crutches, sticks etc) as recommended by the doctor. Keeping the weight off the foot will help it to heal quicker.
  • Adhering to the above instructions on how to reduce swelling in feet after bunion surgery will aid a quick and successful recovery.

How Long Does Swelling Last After Bunion Surgery?

How long does swelling last after bunion surgery? – possibly up to a year. Immediately after the surgery there will be some considerable swelling in the foot as the body attempts to heal itself. This will gradually diminish over time so that by about six weeks it will be much less noticeable. However there may be some swelling in the foot for up to six months – even up to a year after surgery. This is quite normal; however, using some of the tips above may shorten this period considerably.

Walking After Bunion Surgery

As with activity after any surgery, the level of walking after bunion surgery will vary greatly between patients. The short answer to the question – after bunion surgery how soon can I walk? – is actually – ‘immediately’. This is because it is very important, after any type of surgery, for the patient to start moving in order to prevent blood clots.

There are some types of bunion surgery, which allow the patient to start walking and resume normal life immediately with the help of a surgical boot or shoe. However, in most cases, patients are advised to ‘walk’ with a surgical boot or shoe and a walking aid (such as crutches), for only a limited period each day. The majority of the time should be spent relaxing with the foot elevated. It is essential, though, to move the body (‘walk’) from time to time without putting weight on the operated foot.

Two weeks after the surgery, is the point at which most patients will be encouraged to start walking more frequently, still with the surgical footwear but without a walking aid. The amount of walking after bunion surgery should be increased gradually over the following days/weeks. At three to four weeks comfortable footwear like trainers or sandals can usually be worn.

At six to eight weeks, most patients should be walking normally, and after this time all sorts of shoes may be worn, although its best to limit high heels and tight shoes (e.g. with very pointed toes). At twelve weeks after surgery, patients will not only be walking after bunion surgery, but running is once again allowed.

Sleeping After Bunion Surgery

Sleeping after bunion surgery should not pose too much of a problem. Many patients find it helpful to keep the surgical shoe/boot on at night and use cushions or pillows to elevate the foot. This does mean, of course, sleeping on one’s back which may not suit everyone, however wearing the surgical shoe will protect the toe and keep it in position. It may be necessary to sleep in this position for several weeks, but be guided by what the surgeon instructs.  If sleeping after bunion surgery is a problem because of pain either take over-the-counter pain relief medication or, if this does not work, talk to the doctor and ask for stronger painkillers.

Bunion Surgery Recovery Time Off Work

How much time off work after bunion surgery is partly dependent on how much time it is necessary to stand on your feet while working. It is probably advisable for all patients to take at least one week off work, in order to relax at home and keep the foot elevated as much as possible. For those people working from home, a return to work may take place a week after surgery, assuming wearing a surgical shoe and sitting with the foot raised does not interfere with the working day.

For those with sedentary work e.g. in an office it is usually OK to return to work after two weeks – providing wearing trainers or sandals is not a problem. For others who have had bunion surgery, time off work may be even longer if they have more manual work and which, particularly, involves a lot of standing. In this case, if the job can, in the short-term, be modified in some way so it is less active, return to work can be quite quicker.  A return to any job that involves driving will also need to be delayed as the patient can only drive six weeks after surgery.

The bunion surgery recovery time off work should never really exceed eight weeks, even for those with active manual jobs, because, by this time, most patients should be able to return to ‘normal’ life.

Removing Screws After Bunion Surgery

The question of removing bunion surgery screws or, indeed, of not removing them varies from surgeon to surgeon and may also depend on the exact type of surgery performed. Where there are very small screws in the foot after bunion surgery, the surgeon will often leave them in, because they will not cause any problems in the future. Other types of hardware e.g. larger screws and wires may have to be taken out once the toe bones have healed. Depending on the type of surgery this will take place between six and twelve weeks after the bunion surgery.

Removal of the hardware after bunion surgery with plate and screws will mean further surgery with a local anaesthetic and a further incision, although many surgeons may try to cut where the original incision was made to reduce the number of scars. It may also mean a further two weeks in a surgical shoe/boot. This is why most surgeons will just leave the hardware in the foot. There is a slight risk, however, that these screws, wires and/or plates may give the patient problems in the future and if this happens they will be taken out.

Bunion Surgery Recovery Tips

For a comfortable recovery process, a little preparation is required prior to the surgery. Here are some bunion surgery recovery tips that will help to make the process go more smoothly:

  • Prepare your home prior to surgery by making wide ‘pathways’ around your home so that you can move about on crutches more easily. Also remove any obstacles that may trip you up like rugs, placing things within easy reach of where you will be lying e.g. TV remote, tissues, water etc.
  • Asking for and planning help from other people while you are on crutches – it will not be possible to do many things.
  • Thinking about transport – you will not be able to drive so remember to ask friends/family to help you out with any necessary journeys that have to be made.
  • Stocking up on food and other necessities so that you do not have to go shopping. Cooking may be a problem so consider buying ready-made meals or ingredients for dishes which can be cooked simply and quickly.

Some bunion surgery tips for after the surgery:

  • Don’t cheat – keep weight off the foot for as long as the doctor instructs. By putting weight on the foot the healing process will be set back.
  • Follow the advice of the physiotherapist. This will mean less complications, a quicker recovery and ultimately a greater range of motion in the toe/foot.

Bunion Surgery Aftercare

As we have seen above bunion surgery aftercare is essential for a speedy and successful recovery. After bunion surgery some medical aftercare will be offered. The surgeon will make arrangements for post-surgery appointment(s) and the physiotherapist may stay in touch with you. The post-surgery exercises are an essential part of the aftercare and will lead to positive results of bunion surgery.

Apart from the ongoing healing process of the body internally, it is also important to consider the healing process of the external wound post bunion surgery. The original dressing will stay on for a while, but it is important not to get it wet. Here are some of the most important aspects of post bunion surgery care.

Shoes After Bunion Surgery

The hospital will usually provide a surgical shoe or or walking boot after bunion surgery. A boot just comes higher up the leg than a shoe. These are made of a very soft material which protects the toes/foot while at the same time maintaining its position. The shoe/boot also has a special non-slip sole. For most patients this footwear will need to be worn for at least two weeks after the operation. In a minority of cases, the foot may even be set in a plaster cast for two weeks immediately post surgery.

Often, after two weeks of wearing the surgical shoe/boot the patient can think about wearing some kind of ‘normal’ shoe. What are good shoes to wear after bunion surgery? At two weeks post bunion surgery, shoes should be light, very flexible and have plenty of room for the toe. Everybody’s preference is slightly different, but the best shoes to wear after bunion surgery are usually trainers or sandals. It is important to make sure that the toe is not crowded or pinched in any way – this will create problems as well as pain.

white adidas shoes

The best shoes to wear after bunion surgery are usually trainers or sandals.

 

Between eight and twelve weeks the patient can start wearing normal footwear. However, at this stage, the best shoes after bunion surgery should still be fairly flat, or with a small heel and not with pointy toes. High heels and pointy toes put additional pressure on the toes of the foot. Post op shoes after bunion surgery should be comfortable.

Some people favour post op bunion shoes with a rocker sole. Rocker soles do not have a flat sole as in ordinary shoes but the sole is curved, going up at both the toe-end and the heel-end. This construction takes some of the pressure off the foot muscles and tendons when walking. Other features that will make life more comfortable for the foot are extra padded soles, arch support, and shock absorption.

Although high heels and pointy toe shoes are not banned after the appropriate time post surgery, remember that these types of shoes aggravate a bunion and, if worn too much, could lead to further bunion surgery.

How to Ice Foot After Bunion Surgery?

Icing the foot will have a positive impact on the bunion surgery aftercare. What can we use? – Special cold compresses can be purchased from chemists for a few pounds – some even come with their own cover. These compresses are ideal because they stay cold for about 20-30 minutes which is the ideal time to leave it in place and it can be frozen again in the freezer quite quickly . Other possibilities include ice cubes from the freezer in a plastic bag, or even a packet of frozen vegetables – frozen peas seem to be the favourite! The important thing is that the ‘ice pack’ should not make direct contact with the skin as it can cause burns. Unless the ‘ice pack’ has its own cover, always wrap it in a small towel.

How to ice foot after bunion surgery exactly? – The problem, of course, is that immediately after surgery there will be quite a large dressing on the wound which should not be disturbed. Depending on how thick the bandaging is, it may be possible to place the ice pack on the top of the foot and feel the coldness. However, sometimes the dressing is too thick and this does not work. Another place to ice the foot is on the outside edge near the heel – most of the blood vessels to the foot can be found in this place. As an alternative the ice pack can be placed under the knee, where again there are the blood vessels which flow down to the foot.

There are some other important things to remember. When icing the foot it should be raised above the level of the waist. The ice pack can stay on the leg for up to 20 minutes and, certainly immediately after surgery, this can be performed every hour or at least several times a day. As time goes on and the pain and swelling improves it can be done less often.

Bunion Surgery Scar

Any surgery procedure will leave a scar. The extent of the scars after bunion surgery will depend on the type of procedure and whether minimally invasive surgery was possible or not. Scars are a way of the body healing itself by forming new collagen fibres in order to mend the damage. This results in the scar. This new scar tissue after bunion surgery will have a different texture than the surrounding tissue. Most scars fade over time, however the extent of this varies from person to person

Immediately post op bunion surgery the wound will be covered with bandages, however once the incision starts to heal it is better to allow the air to it – providing bandages are not required for another reason.

It is important to massage the wound once it is closed, preferably with some kind of moisturising lotion. Vitamin E, cocoa butter and onion extract products are good products. Massage and moisturisation will speed the healing process and help maintain the skin’s elasticity.

Silicone gels can also be used – they not only help to soften and flatten the scar but they can also relieve itching and discomfort. They need to reused regularly for at least 12 months.

Remember that scar tissue is much more sensitive to the sun so extra care should be taken to use a sun tan lotion on a scar, particularly if it is on top of the foot.

Running After Bunion Surgery

Running is regarded as a high-impact sport. It puts a lot of pressure on the joints of the body and particularly on the feet and legs. Bunion surgery significantly weakens the muscles in the foot, and for some types of surgery like a Lapidus Buniectomy there will also be weakening of the hip, thigh and leg muscles. For this reason running or jogging is not possible immediately after bunion surgery, however with a good physical therapy programme most athletes can return to running at some point.

It is important that the muscles and tendons in the foot (and any other joints) are strong. This will prevent injuries to other joints and tendons in the foot if the runner lands on the foot incorrectly. Stress fractures can also occur. So, it is essential to perform all the necessary exercises to make sure that the body (and foot) are ready to start running.

How long will it take to be running after bunion surgery? It depends on different factors including the type and scope of surgery, however most people will be ready to start running or jogging after bunion surgery after 12 weeks. It is wise to always check the opinion of the doctor/surgeon.

Driving After Bunion Surgery

How long after bunion surgery can you drive? This depends on a few different things. Firstly, and possibly the most important, is to check with your own motor insurance company. Many insurance companies have clauses in their small print about when they permit driving after surgery.

Secondly, medical opinion is that in most cases the patient can drive six weeks post bunion surgery. Interestingly, a research paper on when patients start driving after bunion surgery, put the average length of time at 8.6 weeks. So this will vary, often dependent on the type of surgery.

Thirdly, it depends on how you feel. It is essential that you feel fully in control of the car and able to make an emergency stop, if necessary. Most people prefer to make short local journeys for the first week and then when they are more confident they can take on longer journeys.

How long after bunion surgery can I drive an automatic car? If the surgery was on your left foot, it may be possible to start driving a little earlier. However, if the bunion surgery took place on the right foot then there is no difference between the length of time necessary to be able to drive either a manual or an automatic car.

girl in glasses driving blue car

In medical opinion the patient can drive six weeks post bunion surgery.

Exercises After Bunion Surgery

In order to restore the strength and mobility in the foot and toes it is essential to do exercises after bunion surgery. When can you start doing exercises? It is probably best to discuss this with the doctor, but, depending on surgery type, probably 2-4 weeks after bunion surgery.

Foot exercises after bunion surgery aim to restore strength and flexibility to the main part of the foot. Here are some exercises you can try:

  • Sitting on a chair, place the operated foot on the top of the knee of the good leg. With your hand, gently bend the foot inwards and outwards. You feel a stretch in the foot and ankle. Hold for 5 seconds.
  • Standing and supporting yourself with a wall or some other object, place the operated foot behind you with the heel down and straight knee. You feel a stretch in the calf of the leg. Hold for 20 seconds.
  • Place the operated foot on a chair with the heel flat on the chair. Push the knee over the toes. You feel a stretch in the heel. Hold for 20 seconds.
  • Standing straight, push up gently on your toes. Keep the knees straight. You may need to support yourself with a chair. Try this 10 times.
  • Try standing on one leg. You may need support at first, but gradually build up your strength so that it can be done without support. Hold for five seconds.
  • When going upstairs try to ‘push up’ with the operated foot.

These foot exercises after bunion surgery will also help to strengthen the ankle. Toe exercises after bunion surgery are designed to prevent stiffness in the toes (particularly the big toe) and help you regain flexibility and strength in the joints.

  • Raise the toes and then curl them under the foot. Hold the toes in the upwards position for 10 seconds and then in the downward (curled) position for 10 seconds.
  • Sitting on the floor with the foot flat on the floor, raise and spread the toes making sure the heel stays on the floor. This can be done 10-20 times.
  • While sitting on a chair, use your hand to grip the big toe and circle it in a clockwise direction (20 times) and then an anti-clockwise direction (20 times).
  • With the feet together place an exercise band around both the big toes and attempt to pull them together (away from the other toes). If you have no exercises bands you can simply use your hands to squeeze the two big toes together.
  • Place marbles on the floor together with any empty container. Using the toes try to pick up the marbles and place the in the container.
  • Place a small towel, or even flannel, on the floor and place the foot on it. Try to scrunch up the towel using your toes.

There are many other bunion surgery recovery exercises. Be guided by the doctor/physiotherapist as to the best bunion exercises after your surgery.

man stretching outdoor

In order to restore the strength and mobility in the foot and toes it is essential to do dedicated exercises after bunion surgery.

 

Pain After Bunion Surgery

yellow sneakers

There are pain of the skin incision and pain of the internal damage after bunion surgery.

 

Any surgery causes some kind of pain. Bunion surgery pain is no different, however in the immediate aftermath of the surgery the medical staff will attempt to control it with pain relief medication, which may be needed for a while when you return home. Most patients will experience pain and discomfort for 3-5 days after the bunion surgery. There will still be an element of pain together with some swelling after this time which may last up to 6 weeks. For some people minor pain may last up to 6 months. As noted above icing the foot and doing exercises will go a long way to relieving both the short-term and the long-term pain.

A stiff big toe after bunion surgery can potentially happen with all the different types of bunion surgery. This stiffness can lead to pain when performing certain actions. Those surgeries where rigid bone fixation is used allow for early mobilisation of the big toe. However, whatever the type of surgery it is essential to start moving and exercising the big toe as soon as it is safe to do so. This may prevent long-term pain.

For some people pain occurs in a different part of the foot – the ball. Foot pain after bunion surgery can be transferred pain – where sometimes the brain sends a message about pain in one particular part of the body even though it is receiving pain signals from a different part. In the case of bunion surgery, this is often a continuation of foot ball pain which was felt prior to the surgery. This is called ‘transfer metatarsalgia’. Sometimes this occurs after bunion surgery because the surgeon shortened the big toe bone a little too much and, because the shape of the foot has changed, the patient shifts their weight to the second and third toes. This creates pain because the second and third toes were not designed to carry so much weight and the tissues become sore and painful. Much of the time this problem can be resolved with orthotics, gel pads and arch support, however, in extreme cases further surgery may be required to alleviate the problem.

Pain after bunion surgery months later should not be occurring. Typically, a patient may have some form of pain up to 6 months after the surgery. If there are complications this timeframe may be slightly extended. For long-term excessive pain, the patient should talk with his doctor/consultant. The aim of bunion surgery is to significantly reduce the levels of pain. If this is not the case, after a reasonable amount of time, then the doctor needs to address this matter further. This may mean revision surgery (a second ‘bunion’ operation).

Big Toe Numb After Bunion Surgery

Numbness is common after any type of surgery. The area around the incision is often numb after surgery and this can last for several months. This is because nerves which are near the site of the surgery may have been cut or damaged. The surgeon will always endeavour not to do this, however sometimes it is necessary. Other possibilities for numbness after bunion surgery include vitamin deficiency and nerve compression. It is worth remembering that diabetes can also cause numbness in the big toe. If the numbness persists and is impinging on your life it is worth seeing a doctor who will try to pinpoint the exact cause.

Nerve Pain After Bunion Surgery

What exactly is nerve pain after bunion surgery? It is commonly called neuropathic pain and usually it manifests itself in one or more of the following ways:

  • Muscle weakness in the area of the pain.
  • The feeling of walking on a rock or pebble.
  • Numbness between the toes.
  • Tingling or burning on the bottom of the foot.
  • Sharp pain like an electric shock.

Often this means that the patient has a pinched or entrapped nerve which can be caused because scar tissue from the surgery is strangling a nerve. In addition, a damaged nerve may also cause neuropathic pain. When a patient is suffering from nerve pain in the foot after bunion surgery, the first step is to establish why it exists. Once this has been ascertained the doctor can decide what the best course of action is. Typical treatments includes NSAIDs, and even, sometimes, medicines which are traditionally used to treat other conditions like epilepsy and depression. Creams containing capsaican, the ingredient which makes chilli peppers hot, have also been shown to help with nerve pain.

Although the medical evidence is not always clear many people claim that some alternative treatments help. These include acupuncture, herbal medicine. benfotiamine (a form of vitamin B1) and alpha-lipoid acid supplements.

Ankle Pain After Bunion Surgery

Ankle swelling after a bunion operation is quite common, however icing and keeping the foot elevated will relieve this swelling and any pain associated with it.  Ankle pain after bunion surgery can also be caused, for no other reason than that the ankle has not been used to bear weight for some time. Particularly where patients have not been doing the appropriate exercises, starting to walk on the foot again can cause pain in the ankle joint. Exercises, especially those targeting the ankles, and walking as much as allowed should reduce the pain. Providing the patient has followed the icing and exercise regime ankle pain after bunion surgery should have disappeared after eight weeks. If it does persist contact the doctor/consultant.

What to Expect After Bunion Surgery

Bunion surgery will mean the patient being out of action for a short period of time. Most people will need to rest and recuperate at home for at least two weeks. During this time they probably will not be able to walk without crutches and may need help around the home. However as time progresses and the body heals the patient will become more and more active. Although almost all normal activities can be resumed by 12 weeks, it may take up to 12 months for the body to restore itself 100%.

Successful surgery means that the patient is pain-free and the ‘bump’ on the foot has been removed. This operation may not totally restore the foot to a normal shape, however it does mean that normal footwear can be worn without the accompanying pain. Bunion surgery is regarded as pain relieving surgery – it is not cosmetic surgery. So, what to expect after bunion surgery – bunion relief, which should take the form of:

  • Alleviation of pain.
  • Relieving skin problems associated, for example, with the bunion rubbing against shoes.
  • Making it easier to find footwear (the foot is not so wide).
  • Improving mobility (where that has been a problem before).

Bunion Surgery Complications and Side Effects

Any surgery carries a minimal risk to the patient and this is no different for bunion surgery. General surgery risks include problems with the anaesthetic, both during and after the surgery as well as the possibility of blood clots (or DVT – deep vein thrombosis). The likelihood of any of these happening is extremely small especially for patients who are otherwise in good overall health. Blood clots are often prevented with the use of blood thinner tablets or injections. Patients should always inform their surgeon if they have suffered blood clots previously or if it runs in their family. Keeping the leg/foot elevated and beginning to exercise as soon as allowed after surgery will help to prevent DVT.

The side effects of bunion surgery are also similar to other surgeries. A general anaesthetic can cause tiredness and lethargy. Even if the patient has a local anaesthetic it is important that the body has the time and energy to heal itself, so rest is very important.

There are, however, some specific bunion surgery complications and risks. One of these is the chance of the bunion reappearing at a later time. This rarely happens, but when it does it is probably down to the fact that the original surgery did not correct the structure of the foot and the patient has not looked after the foot properly after surgery. The continual wearing of bad-fitting shoes, high heels and pointy-toed shoes will always exacerbate any weakness in the foot.

Other problems after bunion surgery can include stiffness in the big toe and bone healing problems. Stiffness in the big toe may be cause by a couple of different things. It may be that the bunion has restricted movement in the big toe for so long that even a realignment of the bones will not facilitate a greater range of motion. Scar tissue build-up in the big toe may also lead to stiffness and limited mobility. It is important to start moving and exercising the big toe as soon as the doctor allows in order to keep the toe joint supple and limit the scar tissue. Limited mobility may also be caused by arthritis.

Bone healing problems may be caused by the surgery techniques used or by the patient’s overall health. Bone healing problems means that the bone in the foot does not grow and knit together. Normally this takes up to about eight weeks, but where months have passed and the bones have still not healed together, this is known, in medical terms, as a nonunion.

woman fiziotherapist helping patient

It is important to start moving and exercising as soon as the doctor allows to avoid the majority of bunion surgery complications.

 

Hallux Varus

What is hallux varus? Hallux varus is a rare complication after bunion surgery. It occurs when the big toe points in an outward direction i.e. away from the other toes. Whereas with a bunion the toe points towards the other toes on the foot with hallux varus the toe points in the opposite direction. Hallux varus after bunion surgery is a structural problem caused by an overcorrection during surgery. It can occur immediately after surgery but more often happens over a period of time post surgery. Splints may be used to try to correct the problem. If this does not work further surgery may be required.

Toe Drift After Bunion Surgery

Toe drift is one of the bunion surgery risks. It is a bit of a balancing act to perfect align the big toe after bunion surgery. Many factors may lead to an eventual drift or misalignment of the toe in an unwanted direction. When the toe drifts away from the other toes this is known as hallux varus discussed above, if it drifts back towards the other toes this will be recurrent hallux valgus or the formation of another bunion. Gel toe spacers and bunion regulators will help if the toe is drifting towards the smaller toes. If it is drifting away from the other toes, then taping will be needed. Ideally. the big toe tilts 15º towards the smaller toes so there is a gentle curve at the side of the foot – the side of the foot should not be completely straight.  Any movement of the toe out of alignment should be discussed with the consultant.

Foot Problems After Bunion Surgery

Other complications after bunion surgery may include various foot problems, in addition to the problems with the big toe. In a very small number of cases post bunion surgery pain persists. The reason for this is not always clear, however it should always be checked out. Persistent swelling may also be a problem for some patients but this will eventually correct itself with the proper care. As discussed above nerve damage in the foot is also a minor risk which can lead to persistent pain.

Another issue that causes foot problems after bunion surgery is the metal hardware which, in the majority of cases, remains in the foot i.e. screws, wires and plates. Uncommonly, this may cause problems for patients who have an allergy to metal as their body has an adverse reaction. This is called metallosis, however it is a rare occurrence especially with modern materials. More common, is a general problem with this hardware. In up to 5% of cases patients may subsequently be able to feel the metal hardware through their skin or it may start to irritate the soft tissue or tendons, thereby causing pain. In some circumstances this situation may require further surgery to remove the metal hardware.

Bunion Surgery Infection

Possibly one of the biggest potential problems after any surgery is the risk of infection. Surgeons will do everything possible to prevent infections occurring. Sometimes they may even give antibiotics prior to or post surgery if they believe infection is a real possibility.

Infection after bunion surgery is therefore possible, although its incidence is small. Signs of infection after bunion surgery include redness and soreness around the actual wound, an increase in pain, a foul smelling discharge and high temperature. The patient may also feel generally unwell. Not all of these bunion surgery infection symptoms may occur at the same time. It is important to consult doctor even if only one of these symptoms occur. In some cases the bacteria from the infection may even affect the metal hardware.

A bunion surgery infection may occur at any time, however it most frequently occurs in the period just after the operation. Often the problem can be resolved with antibiotics prescribed by the doctor, or in exceptional circumstances administered intravenously. If this does not work, then, rarely, the surgeon may need to perform a ‘wash out’ of the joint. This will require further surgery. It is essential, therefore, that any infection is treated as soon as possible in order to minimise the risk of further surgery. Having a healthy immune system will minimise the risk of infection.

Success of Bunion Surgery

The success rate for bunion surgery is very high. In one survey 95% of patients who were surveyed 6 months after the surgery said that they would do it again if necessary and would recommend it to their family and friends. Another international study showed that 80% of patients felt very well after surgery, 10%-15% felt better than before surgery even if minor problems remained and about 5% experienced no improvement from bunion surgery.

The first sign of bunion surgery success is that any foot pain has been resolved. This is the main goal for the surgeons and the marker for them of the success of bunion surgery. The second sign of bunion surgery success is the appearance of the foot. It may never look completely ‘normal’, however it should be more aesthetically pleasing and it should be much easier to find shoes that fit properly.

Lots of bunion surgery success stories can be found on the Internet, unfortunately because ‘bad news’ is more interesting unsuccessful stories abound. However this is not a true representation of the bunion surgery success rate. For the vast majority of patients bunion surgery is very successful.

Pros and Cons of Bunion Surgery

What are the pros and cons of bunion surgery? Let’s consider the pros first:

  • In at least 95% of cases surgery relieves pain and enables the patient to achieve long-term comfort and relief.
  • It is more efficient and gets better results than any other method of bunion treatment.
  • It enables an increase in physical activity.
  • Bunion surgery will boost self-confidence through the alleviation of pain and changing the shape of the foot

Now let’s consider the cons:

  • There will be pain immediately after the surgery – possibly for up to three months.
  • In a very small minority of cases the surgery may not be successful.
  • With any surgical procedure there is a small risk of complications

For the majority of people, surgery is a good choice after they have weighed up bunion surgery pros and cons.

Bunion Surgery Alternatives

For those people, however, who decide that surgery is not for them for some reason, what are the bunion surgery alternatives? Many surgeons will expect their patients to have tried some of the alternative bunion treatments before they will agree to surgery. An alternative bunion treatment will alleviate the symptoms but will not make the bunion disappear and will not rectify the main cause of the problem. An alternative bunion treatment prior to surgery, usually involves one of the following:

  • Taking painkillers such as ibuprofen or paracetamol to ease the pain and swelling.
  • Using bunion pads to ease the pressure on the bunion.
  • Wearing orthotic supports or insoles in shoes.
  • Wearing splints at night.
  • Wearing different shoes.

When none of these alternative treatments work effectively, often the only bunion cure offered by doctors is surgery.

Bunion Correction Without Surgery

Total bunion cure without surgery is not really possible, however there are several ways of managing the pain and swelling associated with bunions.

  • Maintain a healthy weight will reduce the pressure on the feet – the more pressure that the toes are under the more likely they will become inflamed and sore.
  • Maintain a healthy footsore routine – soak your feet a few times a week. Epsom salts in the water are good for reducing swelling.
  • Icing your feet – after a long day this can relieve some of the pain.
  • Exercise – any of the exercises already mentioned for the feet and toes are excellent. They help to avoid stiffness and keep the toes and foot more supple.
  • Rest with your feet up – this increases blood circulation and reduces pain and swelling

To find out more about bunion remedies without surgery it is always worth a visit to a podiatrist. Sometimes there are bunion remedies without surgery which they may be able to offer. For example, it has been found that weak muscles may play a part in the pain and immobility of bunions, so some podiatrists offer electrical stimulation therapy. This involves placing electrodes on the muscles which work the big toe and passing a low-intensity, wide-pulse, high frequency electrical current through it in order to stimulate the muscle directly. This is what is known as a non-invasive procedure. A TENS machine may also bring some pain relief. Rather than stimulating the muscles, this machine stimulates the nerves.

How to get rid of tailor’s bunion without surgery? All of the above solutions will also work on a tailor’s bunion.

Some people talk about non-invasive bunion surgery, this is a contradiction in terms. Surgery, by its very nature, is invasive i.e. there must be an incision in the skin, however small. Minimally invasive bunion surgery means much smaller incisions. A non-invasive procedure or treatment is where the skin is not cut in any way.

Here are some other types of bunion treatment at home:

Bunion Splint – A bunion splint wraps around the foot and aligns the toes. They are a little bulky so cannot be worn with shoes. They are usually worn at night. Many people find it feels very comfortable to stretch out the joint. However, once the splint is removed the toes will immediately return to their original position. As a way of bringing relief, a bunion splint can be very beneficial, but it will not correct the bunion itself.

Another type of bunion straightener is the toe separator. Similarly to a bunion splint, a toe straightener is meant to align the toes temporarily but unlike the splint it can be worn during the day. A toe spacer is usually made of foam or soft gel and is placed between the first and second toes. This straightening of the toes does help some people when they are wearing shoes and it can also stop the toes rubbing together which can cause pain. Like the bunion splint, however, once the toe separator is removed the toes will return to their original position.

Bunion pads either come as a sock-like design that slips over the foot and covers the side of the big toe or a small gel cushion which sticks over the bunion. These bunion pads are designed to relive pain. They create a barrier between the bunion and a shoe.

All of these types of devices will not permanently correct the bunion, however for some people they will bring some pain relief.

Bunion Corrector Sandals –  feature a toe-ring design which effectively hides the bunion and pushes the big toe into a straighter position. The manufacturers of this type of footwear claim that their bunion correcting sandals relieve bunion pain, improve foot posture and move the big toe back to its natural position. This may be true, but all of these improvements will only last as long as the sandals are being worn. On the plus side, for those people who are conscious of their bunion, they do provide a way of hiding it in the summer months, with the possibility of pain relief as well.

When it comes to shoes, at the time of writing, there are no shoes available which actually straighten the toes, albeit temporarily, however it pays to consider what type of shoes will be the most comfortable with a bunion. The shoe should be comfortable with a roomy toe area and low-heeled (1”-2”/2.5-5cm). Sometimes it is necessary to go up a half size or more in order to get a good fit. A slightly deeper shoe will be able to accommodate any calluses or corns on the base of the foot. There will also be room to insert a bunion pad or toe straightener if necessary. ‘Softer’ shoes will irritate the bunion less than shoes made from a very stiff material. It may be possible to adapt any shoes that you currently have with the use of shoe stretchers or shoe orthotics.

Do bunion correctors work?

The main purpose of bunion correctors is to bring comfort and some pain relief. In this respect they may well work. One type of bunion corrector, however, will not suit everybody so it pays to try out different types to find the best one for you. Do orthopaedic bunion correctors work? Yes, in this respect they do. The comfort and relief that they can bring, may even delay the possibility of surgery. However, in answer to the question do bunion correctors really work to correct the bunion, the answer must be – no, they do not. Only surgery can correct the root cause of the bunion i.e. the misaligned big toe bone.

Bunion Surgery Cost

As with all surgery, NHS costs for bunion surgery is free of charge, however some people decide to go for private bunion surgery. For those with private medical insurance the private bunion surgery cost will be nothing, subject to the conditions of the particular insurance policy.

For those patients who want to arrange their own bunion removal surgery, cost may seem to be the most important element, however it does pay to not only shop around but to listen to referrals from other people, check out the surgeons and investigate what type of bunion surgery they have experience in. Remember that there are over one hundred types of bunion surgery – one size does not fit all! Web pages are basically advertisements for foot clinics and will always describe everything in glowing colours.

pounds ,money

The average cost of bunion surgery UK is just under £4500 per foot.

 

Despite some claims to the contrary minimally invasive bunion surgery is often available on the NHS. Nevertheless, it has to be admitted that some newer techniques may not yet have been approved for NHS treatment or have been found to be too costly for the NHS. Most private clinics will offer a keyhole bunion surgery cost as their standard price. A private tailor’s bunion surgery cost is very similar to the cost of private bunion surgery. When checking out the private cost of bunion surgery, it is always wise to clarify exactly what the given cost includes. There may or may not be extra charges for additional consultations, crutches, surgical shoe/boot among other things.

Average Cost of Bunion Surgery UK

The average cost of bunion surgery UK is just under £4500 per foot. Although there may be some discount available if both feet are treated together although this is often not advisable because of the mobility problems post bunion surgery. The average bunion surgery cost UK, per region, according to the Private Healthcare UK website is as follows:

Region

Average treatment price in £’s

Central London

4495


East Midlands

4335


East of England

4419


Greater London

4419


Harley Street

4500


Harley Street

4500

North East England

4419

North West England

4419


Scotland

4419

South East England

4419


South West England

4282

Wales

3915


West Midlands

4419


Yorkshire and the Humber

4419

Many of these prices will include keyhole bunion surgery, however this type of surgery may not be suitable for all types of bunion and it could be that the cost will be higher for more invasive surgery. It is best to take these prices as just a guideline. With so many types of bunion surgery, there may be different prices.

Bunion Surgery NHS

NHS bunion surgery is available free of charge to citizens of the UK. Doctors will only refer patients to a consultant when conservative treatments have already been tried. The criteria for referrals is that the bunion is very painful and/or is having a big impact on the patient’s life. Minimally invasive or keyhole bunion surgery on NHS is often available if the consultant decides that it is suitable.

Bunion surgery NHS will not incur any extra costs – consultations, crutches and surgical footwear will be provided free of charge. The surgery is normally performed on an outpatient basis under general anaesthetic with the patient returning home in normal circumstances.

Tailor’s Bunion NHS – Tailor’s bunion NHS operations follow exactly the same procedure as for standard bunions, with the same criteria for referral to a specialist.

Bunion Surgery NHS Waiting Time

The bunion surgery NHS waiting time is officially up to 18 weeks from date of referral. This is the government target for all NHS surgeries. Unfortunately, after the COVID pandemic there have been major delays to all types of surgery. As of December 2020 there were 4.52 million people on NHS England waiting lists for non-urgent surgery. The number of patients waiting over a year for treatment was 225,000 in the same month – this is the highest since April 2008. A similar picture can be seen at NHS Scotland and NHS Northern Ireland. These figures are for all surgeries, however it can safely be assumed that the NHS bunion surgery waiting list is equally affected.

It is worth checking out the NHS waiting list for bunion surgery at various hospitals as patients have the right to ask for treatment in any hospital in their NHS region (England/Wales or Scotland or Northern Ireland) depending on which country the patient lives in. If travelling is not a problem, it may be possible to find a hospital where the waiting time is much less than the local hospital.

Bunion Surgery Cost NHS

Providing a patient is eligible as a resident of the UK the bunion surgery cost NHS is free. Everything required for the surgery including medication, anaesthesia, consultant costs, crutches (or other walking aids), surgical orthotics (e.g. surgical shoe) and any necessary surgery aftercare is included in the bunion surgery NHS cost i.e. totally free of charge.

Bunion Surgery Abroad

With current extended waiting lists and the relatively high costs for private treatment in the UK, bunion surgery abroad is an attractive proposition. There are a few issues to consider. Firstly, it is inadvisable to take a long flight immediately after surgery because of the risk of blood clots. Additionally, it may be uncomfortable sitting for a long time on a flight home. Bearing this in mind, it is best to choose clinics/hospitals in the European region. What’s also important, patients can get secured for their medical trip, which makes their travel and stay abroad much safer. Clinic Hunter & AXA Partners have created a medical tourism insurance dedicated solely to medical tourists.

Most facilities abroad can offer standard surgery or minimally invasive keyhole bunion surgery. The pitfalls of having any bunion surgery abroad is not knowing how good the surgeon is and what the standard of the medical facility is. Any clinic can take web space and write up a glowing report about themselves. This is where the services of an agent are invaluable. They can give first-hand honest reports about the clinic/hospital, match the patient with the best medical facility for their particular condition and provide a conduit for any problems or complications before, during or after the surgery. Our consultants will be only too pleased to discuss the various clinics and hospitals we represent as well as informing you of the experience of the surgeons and, ultimately, matching you with the correct medical facility and specialist.

How Much Does Bunion Surgery Cost Abroad?

The cost of bunion surgery abroad varies greatly between different countries. The main reason for this is not because certain countries offer inferior facilities or medical staff, but it is often simply connected with the local cost of living. The cost of living in the UK is higher than many other European countries, especially in central/eastern Europe. Some countries can offer bunion surgery for around £1000. It is important to remember that the cost of flights and a few nights hotel accommodation will probably need to be added to this cost. It is also worth checking exactly what the cost includes – will there be extras to pay for tests, x-rays, medication etc.? Often overseas surgeons will accept x-rays and tests which have been done in the UK (free of charge). Even with these additional charges, it can be seen that substantial savings can be made on the average UK private cost of bunion treatment of about £4,500.

Bunion Surgery Poland

Poland is a very good choice when it comes to having bunion surgery abroad. It is one of the most frequently chosen destinations for medical procedures abroad and offers excellent value for money. Private Polish clinics and hospitals are well-appointed with the latest cutting edge equipment. All surgeons are trained to the highest standard and schooled in the latest surgical techniques. In addition, English is widely spoken, not only in the medical centres, but also generally throughout the country.

The cost of a bunionectomy starts at about £1200, which includes the consultation with the surgeon, anaesthesia, surgery, all necessary examinations and all check-ups. There is no need to stay overnight in the medical centre, but the patient will need to stay 3 nights in a local hotel so that follow-up surgery checks can be made. So, there will be additional costs of 3 nights accommodation in a hotel and the cost of the return flight.

Bunion surgery in Poland has so many advantages. The flight time from London to Warsaw is about 2.5 hours which is not too long a journey after surgery. In addition, there are many flights from the UK’s other airports to several different airports in Poland. Budget airlines like WizzAir, EasyJet and Ryanair can offer some very good value fares.

Bunion Surgery Turkey

Turkey is another country which is increasingly popular for medical tourism overseas. Turkey boasts vibrant, modern cities with very good medical facilities. Many of the Turkish hospitals are new buildings, furnished and equipped to the highest standard. All surgeons are fully trained and are specialists in bunion surgery. All of them speak English.

The cost of a bunionectomy in Turkey is slightly higher than Poland, with prices starting at about £1800, but still considerably cheaper than the average private cost in the UK. The flying time to Turkey is around four hours. Due to the fact that Turkey is a popular holiday destination, good-priced seats may be available on holiday charter flights particularly to the coastal resorts. Minimum stay is again 3 days, although some people may decide to take advantage of the sun and extend the stay a little longer.

About one third of the patients treated in Turkey come from overseas, however due to this popularity there are some clinics who have jumped on the bandwagon without having the proper credentials. It therefore pays to book medical facilities in Turkey through a respected UK agent, who is familiar with the reputable clinics and surgeons. Our consultants are happy to furnish you with this information and discuss your personal needs.

Bunion Surgery Reviews

The Internet has given everybody the chance to check out information, but in the same way has allowed anybody to publish any information be it true or false. It is better therefore to stick to some of the more reputable review pages when it comes to bunion surgery. Bunion forums are often a good source of information, because more often than not they have been written by patients who have actually had a bunionectomy and therefore have personal knowledge of what to expect. The website ‘patient.info’ has some very good forums as do websites like foot health forum and even Martin Lewis’s Money Saving Expert website.

Everybody’s surgery needs, when it comes to bunions, are slightly different and the recovery process varies from person to person. Personal bunion surgery blogs are another great method for getting firsthand information. It pays to gather as much information as possible order to come to your own decision as to whether bunion surgery is right for you.

Summary

A bunion forms due to a misalignment in the big toe joint. The exact cause of them remains unknown, however it is thought that a bunion is, at least partly, inherited. Wearing tight shoes, high heels and placing additional pressure on the toe joint will exacerbate this misalignment and cause the joint to move thus creating a bunion.

A bunionectomy is one of the most common surgeries performed, however there are numerous different types of bunion surgery. Generally a surgeon will only perform the procedure once they are satisfied that other conservative methods of treatment have been tried.

Post bunion surgery the patient will often be unable to walk on the foot for up to two weeks and the total recovery time is about three months. However, most patients can probably return to work after two weeks. The success rate of bunion surgery is very high with almost every patient enjoying a considerable reduction in pain. As with any surgical intervention bunion surgery does carry some minimal risks.

legs fishnet high heels

Wearing tight shoes, high heels and placing additional pressure on the toe joint cause a creating of bunion.

Sources

  • Is It a Bunion or Something Else? – https://creakyjoints.org/diagnosis/bunion-misdiagnosis/
  • Everything You Should Know About Tailor’s Bunion – https://www.healthline.com/health/tailors-bunion
  • Is Bunion Surgery Worth it? – https://www.faant.com/library/is-bunion-surgery-worth-it-.cfm
  • Bunion Surgery: Is it worth it? video https://video.fosterwebmarketing.com/faant.com/httpdocs/evm/steinke_bunion_surgery_h264_764x430.mp4\
  • Current Concepts In Minimally Invasive Bunion Surgery – https://www.hmpgloballearningnetwork.com/site/podiatry/current-concepts-minimally-invasive-bunion-surgery
  • What kind of bunion surgery is right for me? – video – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r2mhD5ekFFs
  • BUPA bunion surgery video – https://youtube.com/watch?v=06-dAvx4NO4
  • Shoes to wear after foot surgery – https://shoerazzi.com/best-shoes-to-wear-after-foot-surgery/
  • Video about icing the foot – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d8-GG4KD_Tw
  • Driving after Hallux Valgus Corrective Surgery – https://online.boneandjoint.org.uk/doi/abs/10.1302/1358-992X.94BSUPP_XXXVII.EFORT2011-270
  • Bunion Exercises – https://www.healthline.com/health/bunion-exercises
  • Risks of Having Bunion Surgery – https://www.verywellhealth.com/risks-of-having-bunion-surgery-1337659
  • How to choose the best shoes for bunion relief – https://www.healthline.com/health/bunion-shoes
  • Treating bunions using surgery through small incisions in NHS – https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/ipg332/resources/treating-bunions-using-surgery-through-small-incisions-pdf-314281261
  • Private bunion surgery cost in the UK – https://www.privatehealth.co.uk/conditions-and-treatments/bunion-surgery/costs/
  • NHS – Bunions – https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/bunions/
Anne Beckett

In the UK Anne was a professionally qualified trainer with many years of experience in the training industry. She mainly worked in the travel, tourism and leisure industries (including Thomas Cook and British Airways) as well as in other sectors.

Since moving to Poland  twelve years ago, Anne has become involved in other business sectors – teaching English as a foreign language and translating documents from Polish into English. She specialises particularly,  in  medical translations and  works closely with dentists, cardiologists and neurologists in translating and preparing articles for publication. She has also trained as a practitioner in the field of neuro-linguistic programming and is a qualified hypnotherapist.

Any spare time is spent renovating the house in Poland which Anne bought some years ago.

Send request to the best doctors abroad

Irina
Patient Advisor

     

    Contact us

    Call us

    Chat with us

    Are you looking for treatment abroad?

    Klaudia
    Patient advisor

      ×