Healing Bunions: Is Surgery Necessary?

By Behzad Rashidizadeh On Monday, March 25 th, 2013 · In iWalk-Free Blog

Bunions: Why do I have them, how can I heal them?

Bunions, and the resulting pain, are a widespread ailment that can be caused by many different factors. Shoes, genetics, weight, job, activity level, and the type of foot you have (flat, high arch, ext.) are all factors that can contribute to the formation of painful foot bunions.

Bunions are a deformity of the foot at the metatarsophalangeal joint (MTP joint). The MTP joint, also known as the “big toe joint,” (because it connects the big toe to the foot) is indispensable for distributing body weight on the foot while walking. There are various at home remedies for less severe cases of bunions, many of which can help ease the pain and other negative side-effects that bunions often cause.

However, the only surefire way to get rid of bunions is with surgery. This is because bunion surgery, unlike other treatments, corrects the underlying misalignment of the foot. Below is some information relating to the care and treatment of bunions – both for those who simply need to stall bunion growth and prevent the problematic bunions from getting worse, and information for those suffering from painful and severe bunions that may require bunion surgery.

Alternative Bunion Pain Relief Therapies

1.) Bunion-Friendly Footwear:

Bunion Friendly Footwear

Footwear is the most important step to prevent excessive discomfort from your bunions. Relief from bunion pain can be as simple as stretching out shoes that are too tight around the toes and bunion, or if at all possible, wearing shoes that enable the foot and toes to have ample space within the shoe. Ample toe space is necessary to prevent the big toe from pushing in towards the smaller toes, which can worsen the deformity of the joint and foot, both causing bunions and worsening an existing bunion condition. Silicone bunion pads can also be placed in the shoe to help prevent painful friction from occurring and to prevent the foot from becoming more severely deformed.

To ensure maximum comfort, consider visiting an orthopedist to pick up a pair of custom-made orthotic shoes. Custom orthotics can help reduce friction between your shoe and your bunion and help keep your foot in proper alignment. Proper footwear is a crucial and proven way to relieve some of the discomfort caused by bunions and to prevent mild bunions from morphing into a more severe bunion condition.

2.) Taping Your Bunion:

Taping your Bunions

Taping your bunion can have a similarly beneficial effect. Taping can also help prevent complications by reducing friction between the bunion and the shoe by ensuring your foot stays properly aligned.

To be sure you are properly taping your foot in a way most beneficial to healing your bunion, it may be best to ask your health care practitioner or physical therapist to demonstrate the proper technique.

3.) Hot/Cold Bunion Therapy:

Hot/Cold Bunion Therapy

Alternating icing the bunion and applying heat to the bunion can provide temporary relief of bunions and is helpful in reducing any swelling of an irritated bunion.

4.) Castor Oil:

Castor Oil

Castor oil is a holistic treatment many people swear by, as it has anti-inflammatory and analgesic (pain relieving) properties. Both of these properties can relieve discomfort of the bunion itself and potentially stall any future growth.

Soak a cloth with a small amount of castor oil, and wrap it around the foot, making sure the castor oil has contact with the bunion. Wrap your entire foot in plastic wrap, and place a hot compress for approximately 30 minutes.

5.) Zheng Gu Shui:

Zheng Gui

This liquid of Chinese origin reduces the calcium deposits that form the bunion by breaking them up. To avoid burns, however, lightly apply the liquid with a cotton swab, and do not cover your bunions after application. Please note that incorrectly using this substance (i.e. covering the treated area after application, or applying Zheng Gu Shui too liberally) can result in skin burns, and that this substance will stain clothing. It is advisable to discuss the benefits of this bunion treatment with your health care practitioner prior to use.

6.) Acupuncture:

Accupuncture for Bunions

The foremost treatment of Eastern-style medicine that is used to cure many different ailments can also be used to treat your bunions. Studies have shown that semi-regular acupuncture can alleviate pain caused by bunions a considerable amount – some fans of the treatment even swear it kept them (and their bunions) off of the surgery table.

Thousands of fellow bunion-sufferers have found success using various alternative treatments; however these alternative bunion treatments should not be considered a replacement for conventional Western-style medicine. It is always wise to speak with your health care practitioner before beginning any treatment, and it is always wise to keep in mind that bunion surgery is the only permanent and sure-fire way to completely remove a bunion.

Bunion Surgery

There are two main types of bunion surgery.

– A bunionectomy is used for less severe cases of bunions. A Bunionectomy involves shaving off the enlarged bone that is the protruding bunion, and realigning the ligaments and tendons of the foot to prevent the resurgence of the bunion.

– An osteotomy is used for more severe cases of bunions. This type of surgery is more invasive because it involves both cutting and realigning the bone forming the bunion, and fixing the realignment in place with the use of screws or pins.

Bunion surgery is the physical removal of the bunion and is the last and most drastic treatment option for those suffering from severe pain and other complications. Below are some tips and tricks to make the approximately two month long recovery from surgery as painless as possible.

Before Bunion Surgery

1.) Doctor Knows Best:

Once your doctor says you need surgery, the bunion is most likely severe enough to disrupt your daily life. Make sure you seriously consider bunion surgery as a bunion treatment option – even if it may not be your ideal bunion treatment choice. Putting off bunion surgery will only worsen the problem and has to potential to increase the complication of any future bunion surgery.

2.) Pre-Surgery Prep:

Before surgery, make sure you are completely up to date with doing your laundry, taking out the trash, watering plants, grocery shopping, and cooking. This can be especially important if you live alone or are typically in charge of the household chores. It may be advisable to cook some meals and store them in your freezer for a rainy (or post surgery) day.

Taking care of these little odds and ends can help ensure you won’t have to take care of any hard-to-handle tasks immediately post surgery. The first week it is crucial you keep your healing foot elevated as much as possible, so make this lazy task easier on yourself!

3.) Space to Heal:

Prepare your post surgery recovery space. Whether you plan on being lazy on your bed, a couch, or a futon, it is advisable to have a small table nearby on which to keep food, drink and whatever else you need to keep occupied, such as books, knitting, electronics (and their chargers) and remotes. It may be best to choose a “bunion recovery space” located near an electrical outlet for this reason.

After Bunion Surgery

4.) Recovery Time:

Recovery time for bunion surgery depends entirely upon the procedure that was performed and the type/severity of your bunion.

5.) Press for a Pass:

Get a handicap parking space – trust us, your feet will thank you! Walking on your foot is a major “don’t” when recovering from surgery. Disobeying doctor’s orders and bearing weight on your healing bunion before it is fully healed can cause many complications.

In severe cases, premature walking can make the surgery you went through completely irrelevant. Becoming weight-bearing before being given the 'OK' by your surgeon can easily re-disrupt the carefully set alignment of your foot. In certain cases, premature walking can even make the condition worse than it was pre-surgery! If your doctor does not offer a handicap parking space, or if you cannot bear even short distances on crutches, it may be best to look into alternative crutch options that allow pain-free mobility. The best option currently available for lower leg injuries is the hands-free iWalk crutch.

6.) Take it Easy:

This is often the hardest order to follow post surgery, but not following it may render your entire surgery pointless! If you doctor says you need your healing foot to remain elevated – than do it!

7.) Ask for Help:

Always accept help when you need it! Post surgery is not the time to be proud. If you are a die-hard independent, it is definitely necessary to look into getting a hands-free crutch like the iWalk, which enables you to carry out simple day to day tasks like getting yourself coffee, or carrying your schoolbooks. There is no shame in being injured!

8.) Follow Orders:

Compliance with the requirement to be non-weight bearing is often the most difficult rule to follow when you are regulated to crutches. It is very easy to justify short trips to the bathroom or kitchen without your crutches as “harmless,” but nothing could be further from the truth. If compliance is not an issue for you, than traditional crutches should serve you just fine, provided to comply to the above suggestions.

However, for those of you that absolutely need your arms and feet to survive in your day-to-day environment, I cannot stress the importance of obtaining a crutch alternative like the iWalk-Freethat allows unparalleled independence for the user. Patients who choose the latter option of a proven crutch alternative like the iWalkfor the most part do not have to comply with the above suggestions, as they will be able to maintain their typical non-injured lifestyle during their post bunion surgery recovery.

Neither the severity of your bunions, nor the treatment option you choose, make dealing with bunions any less of a hassle. Hopefully you will find the above information to be helpful in choosing your own recovery option. If you experience any doubt as to which treatment would work best for you, or if you are wondering if your treatment of choice would be appropriate for you, we highly suggest speaking to your health care practitioner.

Thanks for reading and happy healing!

The information above is intended for informational purposes only and is not intended to prevent, treat, or diagnose any illness or disease. We aim to provide the highest quality information, so if you have any questions on the information above, or if you would like to present an alternate opinion, we welcome your feedback!


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