If you have bunions that cause big toe pain, call your healthcare provider for treatment. You may be a good candidate for bunionectomy, After surgery, most people can resume their activities in six to 12 weeks.
Bunion surgery, sometimes called bunionectomy, is a treatment to correct bunions. There are a few types of bunion surgery. Most of them involve repositioning the big toe to relieve pain and improve function.
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A bunion, or hallux valgus, is a bony bump on the side of the big toe joint. These bumps grow on the outside edge of the foot. You can see them at the part of the joint where the toe meets the foot, called the metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint.
Your surgeon may use a few different techniques during your bunion surgery, including:
Usually, you only need surgery if your bunion is painful or causing functional problems. You may be a candidate for bunion removal if you have:
Before surgery, you and your surgeon will discuss your health, activity levels and any other factors that could affect your recovery. Your surgeon will use this information to choose the best type of surgery for you. On the day of your appointment, your healthcare provider will ask you to arrive one to two hours early. Typically, surgeons perform bunion surgery with local anesthesia (numbing agent around the toe) in addition to a light monitored anesthesia that will keep you comfortable during the procedure. Typically intubation (breathing tube) and heavy anesthesia is not needed for this type of procedure.
For most bunion surgeries, your surgeon makes a small incision along your big toe joint. Then your surgeon repositions your big toe. Your surgeon may also realign the tendons or ligaments around your toe joint.
Usually, your surgeon sets your toe in place using:
Your surgeon places stitches and bandages on your toe to help the area heal properly. The whole process can take anywhere from 45 min to 3 hours depending on the severity of the bunion and what needs to be performed to correct it.
Bunion surgery is an outpatient procedure, meaning you can return home the same day. After surgery, you will wait in a recovery room for one to two hours until your surgeon determines you are safe to leave. You will have to ask someone to drive you home. During your recovery at home, your healthcare provider will instruct you to:
During the first two weeks after surgery, you may need to ask someone to help you prepare meals or do household chores.
Most people who have surgery for a bunion experience significant pain relief when they recover. The surgery also improves big toe alignment. Improving your big toe alignment can help you walk more easily.
The possible risks associated with bunion surgery include:
Your doctor will discuss the risks of bunion surgery with you. Bunion surgery complications are rare and usually easy to treat. If you do experience any complications, your recovery may take longer than expected.
Usually, you will get your stitches out about two weeks after surgery. However, it takes about six to 12 weeks for your bones to heal. You will likely have to wear a protective shoe or boot.
During this healing period, you won’t be able to put all of your weight on your foot. To move comfortably, you may need to use crutches, a scooter or a walker. Weight bearing will depend on what type of procedure is being done to correct your bunion.
After six to 12 weeks, you will start to regain foot function. Specific physical therapy exercises help restore your foot’s strength and range of motion. You can resume your activities after about three months. However, swelling may last for six to nine months after surgery.
To ensure that your foot heals properly, you will need to see your healthcare provider for pre-scheduled post op visits following surgery.
Talk to a healthcare provider if your bunion causes pain or interferes with walking. Bunion surgery can help patients with painful bunions become more active again.
After bunion surgery, you can take steps to prevent bunions from coming back. One of the most common causes of bunions is wearing tight-fitting shoes. Be aware that returning to wearing a too-tight shoe may cause bunions to return.
Additionally, an orthotic may be helpful in preventing recurrence if the cause of the bunion to begin with was a pronated (flatter) foot type.
Stretching may also be helpful if equinus (tight calf muscles) was the cause of the bunion.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Your healthcare provider may recommend bunion surgery if you have painful, bony bumps called bunions. Correcting bunions with surgery can decrease your pain and help you regain foot function. Most people who have bunion surgery recover well and can resume their usual activities in six to 12 weeks.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 04/16/2021.
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