If you struggle with bunions (also known as hallux valgus), you are not alone. Some studies show that this condition affects over one-third of the population. 

Have you ever wondered why so many people develop bunions or what you can do to treat them? If so, you are in the right place.

Below, you will learn more about bunions and bunion treatment, including a new and minimally invasive surgery option offered by Dr. Bhela.  

What Are Bunions?

A bunion is a bony bump that forms at the base of the big toe — specifically, the metatarsophalangeal (or MTP) joint.

Bunions occur when bone or tissue moves and becomes misaligned. This movement forces the big toe to bend inward toward the others, causing pain and a noticeable lump.

A bump on the side of the foot is the most common symptom of a bunion. The skin may also be red, and you will likely experience pain while walking because the MTP joint carries much of the body’s weight.

It is important to note that bunions are a progressive disorder. They begin with a shift in the big toe that gradually changes the angle of the bones. The characteristic bump associated with bunions also becomes increasingly prominent the longer bunions go untreated.

Most people do not develop severe bunion symptoms until it is progressed to the later stages. However, when bunions have reached the later stages, they can become severely painful and affect every part of life. 

What Causes Bunions?

Bunions result from a disturbance in the normal balance of pressure exerted on the foot’s joints and tendons. This disruption can lead to joint instability and, potentially, deformities.

Bunions are typically brought about by years of abnormal motion and pressure on the MTP joint. They are often influenced by how we walk and our inherited foot type (people with flat feet are more likely to develop bunions than those with normal or high arches).

Your choice of footwear also plays a crucial role in your likelihood of developing bunions. People who frequently wear high heels or wear too-small shoes place more pressure on their MTP joints, increasing their chances of experiencing bunions. 

Those who participate in activities that put a lot of pressure on the feet — such as runners and ballet dancers — are also more prone to bunions.

Treatment Options for Bunions

Proper bunion treatment must address the bony growth and the entire foot.

The following are some of the treatment options we first recommend at Hicksville Podiatry to relieve the pain caused by bunions:

  • Wearing wider shoes to reduce pressure and friction.
  • Taking anti-inflammatory medications to reduce pain and discomfort.
  • Performing toe and foot stretching exercises.
  • Wearing pads and cushions around the bony prominence.
  • Wearing a spacer between the big and second toe.
  • Wearing custom-made insoles to promote normal alignment.

We will also explore surgical options for pain relief after all of these conservative treatment methods have been exhausted. 

The Problem with Conservative Bunion Treatment

Conservative treatments for bunions are limited because they cannot fix bone deformities or change the metatarsal bone position. Bunions cannot heal on their own because they are a bone problem. 

The only way to stop the progression or reverse the bone deformity is to literally move the bones back into the correct position and realign the joint. This can only be done with surgery.

doctor inspecting a bunion

How to Know if You Need Bunion Surgery

If conservative treatment fails to relieve pain or the bunion gets to the point where conservative treatment is no longer a viable option, surgical intervention can correct the deformity.

When determining whether or not you need bunion surgery, the primary question is, “How does the bunion affect your daily life?”

Your bunion might look a bit strange. However, if it does not cause pain or impair your quality of life — i.e., you can still wear regular shoes, perform everyday activities, etc.— managing the condition with conservative treatments may be sufficient to prevent any pain. However, if you have foot pain, you need to have your bunions evaluated. 

Bunion Surgery Options

Bunion Surgery Options

Several surgical procedures exist to treat bunions. During these procedures, a surgeon will remove the bump, modify the foot’s bone alignment, and adjust soft tissue — all to reduce pain and realign your toe joint.

In selecting the procedure or combination of procedures for your particular case, Dr. Bhela will consider several factors, including the following:

  • Age
  • Activity level
  • Degree of joint deformity (based on x-rays)
What is a Minimally Invasive Keyhole Bunionectomy?

Keyhole bunion surgery (also known as a keyhole bunionectomy) is the most modern and minimally invasive surgical method available to correct bunions.

This procedure involves making a tiny incision and removing the bony bump on the side of the foot. Then, Dr. Bhela will make another minuscule incision on the top of the big toe to align it properly.

These small incisions allow Dr. Bhela to use fine, specially designed instruments that produce the best cosmetic results. Less suturing is required compared to other surgeries (in some cases, sutures are not used at all).

The keyhole bunionectomy surgery is also performed under fluoroscopic viewing, which produces less trauma to the tissue and reduces surgical times, as well as post-surgery pain and recovery.

Postoperative patients can walk immediately after treatment with the help of a surgical shoe or boot. Pins and screws often are not required. Instead, the toe and foot can be stabilized with tape or splinting.

What to Expect During the Recovery Period

After the surgery, you will wear a soft bandage for two weeks. It can be removed at your two-week follow-up appointment. From that point onward, you can start wearing supportive athletic shoes.

Immediately after surgery, you can walk with crutches for balance and support.

Since keyhole bunion surgery is minimally invasive, most patients can expect to return to normal activities within 2 to 4 weeks. However, you should limit strenuous activity for at least four weeks.

Typical Patient Journey

The average patient’s journey after keyhole bunion surgery at our practice typically goes as follows:

  • Post-op, 1-7 days after surgery: The wound is dressed, and a post-op sandal is worn. The patient should rest, keep their foot elevated, and restrict activities to home only. 
  • 1-2 weeks after surgery: The dressing can be changed after one week. Patients can stand up to 20 minutes per hour, but they should continue to minimize time on their feet otherwise.
  • 2 weeks after surgery: Stitches removed. The patient can transition back into sneakers, apply a compressive bandage, and commence the range of motion exercises prescribed by Dr. Bhela. They should limit themselves to upper body exercise only.
  • 2-3 weeks after surgery: Patients can return to office-based work, drive short distances, and perform low-impact exercises.
  • 1 month after sugery: Progress review takes place with Dr. Bhela. Patients can place weight through the toe area and begin rehabilitation exercises as guided by the surgeon. 
  • 2 months after sugery: Progress review takes palace with Dr. Bhela. X-rays may be taken to determine the patient’s healing. Swelling will begin to resolve at this point, and most shoes are okay to wear, but the patient should still abstain from high-impact exercise. 
  • 3-4 months after surgery: Further progress reviews will be arranged with Dr. Bhela to evaluate the surgical site. Most activities are permitted at this point, including high-impact exercise. 

Bone healing generally takes 12-16 weeks on average. A small amount of swelling may persist from this point onward, but significant pain is rare. 

Potential Complications

After bunion surgery, some people experience complications like stiffness or positional abnormalities.

There is also a slight chance that a bunion can recur after surgery. However, you can reduce your chances of recurrence by avoiding tight, narrow shoes and high heels. Sticking with your physical therapy routine and attending all your follow-up appointments is also helpful for preventing recurrence.

Schedule Your Keyhole Bunion Surgery Today!

Minimally invasive bunion surgery might be the right fit if you are sick of dealing with bunions and have exhausted conservative treatment options. 

Contact Hicksville Poditray to schedule an appointment with Dr. Bhela today, and find out if you are a good candidate for keyhole bunion surgery. But let your bunions hurt you anymore!