When is it time to consider Bunion Surgery?

The doctors at Kansas City Foot and Ankle are frequently asked the question “When should I consider bunion surgery?”   The answer is “It depends.”
Bunion vs nornal pic

First of all, let’s clarify what a bunion is and isn’t.  Bunions are bony bumps to the inside of the foot just behind your big toe.  There’s a common misconception that it is an enlargement of the bone, or an extra growth of bone that needs to be cut off.  The truth is, that bump that you see is the normal metatarsal bone; it’s just moved into a bad position.  The abnormal position of the metatarsal, coupled with the fact that your big toe is now angling toward your second toe, is causing the side of your 1st metatarsal bone to be very prominent and appear to be enlarged.  Think of it as normal bones, just in an abnormal position.

Just because you have a bunion, doesn’t mean you need surgery to correct it.   If your bunion doesn’t hurt, then surgery is not recommended.  Lots of people walk around their entire life with bunions that don’t hurt.  Just make sure you stay away from any shoes that irritate the bump, like tight, narrow, or high heeled shoes.

If your bunion only hurts with certain shoes, find other shoes or styles to wear.  A simple change in shoe style can prevent the need for surgery.  There are lot’s of new comfortable pads on the market these days to reduce shoe pressure on the bump.  Many are made from a soft silicone gel material and are washable and reusable.

Whether or not your bunions are painful, you need to have a podiatrist evaluate your condition.  The initial step is to evaluate the damage that has already occurred.  The foot doctors At Kansas City Foot and Ankle utilize state of the art digital x-ray technology to assess the bone misalignment and educate you on what has occurred as a result of years of instability and poor mechanical function of the foot.

Once the doctor has assessed what is happening inside your foot, a treatment plan can be developed specific to your needs.  Typically, a conservative treatment plan is appropriate, and includes highly advanced custom molded orthotics to address the instability of the foot, which caused the bunion.  The custom orthotics prevent further damage and may reduce pain and inflammation.  The doctors can also provide bunion pads or cushions as an additional measure to help get you comfortable.  The doctor may also suggest supportive footwear.  Many patients find relief with these conservative methods and don’t require surgery.

Surgery is typically reserved for patients who have not responded to conservative treatment.  This group of patients can usually check off a few of the following indicators that signal it’s time to consider bunion surgery.

  1. Swelling and redness of the big toe joint that won’t go away
  2. Experiencing significant and consistent bunion pain
  3. Shoes cause pain and are difficult to fit due to the bunion
  4. Inability to flex the big toe
  5. Simply walking causes significant pain
  6. Big toe pushes other toes out of alignment causing pain, corns or callouses on other toes

If surgery is necessary, our highly experienced foot and ankle surgeons will walk you through the process and educate you on what to expect at each step.

If you have a bunion, it is wise to have it evaluated by your local podiatrist to determine a treatment plan that will keep you comfortable, and get you back to your active lifestyle.   Call our office at 816-943-1111 to schedule an appointment.