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Bunion Surgery

Bunion Surgery in Asheville, NC

A bunion is a bony (and often painful) bump at the big toe joint, along the inside of the foot. Bunions are a common foot problem, typically resulting from wearing tight or high-heeled shoes. If left untreated, bunions can cause a lot of discomfort and eventually make walking difficult.

If you have a bunion, it’s important to take action to stop it from getting worse. This may be as simple as wearing wider, flat-heeled shoes, or you may need surgery to correct the bunion if pain or stiffness is interfering with your desired activities. An experienced orthopedic foot and ankle specialist can help you determine the right treatment options for your needs.

What does a bunion look like?

A bunion, also called “hallux valgus,” is a misalignment of the metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint, or the joint where your big toe bone meets the forefoot bone. The big tone bone (called the phalanx) begins to angle toward the second toe, rather than pointing forward. As a result, the MTP joint enlarges, and often becomes inflamed and irritated.

From the outside, a bunion looks like a round, swollen and bony bump. The skin may be red due to inflammation, and the joint may be tender to pressure.

Why do people get bunions?

Bunions are often considered a hereditary trait in that some people are more prone to forming bunions as they age. However, the main cause of bunions is improperly fitting footwear.

If you wear shoes that are too tight or narrow in the forefoot (such as shoes with a pointed toe shape), this places pressure on the big toe and MTP joint that can gradually cause the toe bone to move out of alignment and a bunion to form. High heeled shoes, which put significant pressure on the ball of the foot, can have a similar effect.

Bunions vs. bunionettes

A bunionette, also called a “tailor’s bunion,” is a similar deformity that affects the pinky toe (it is not just a small bunion). Bunionettes can also be painful and cause a small, round bump to form on the outside of the foot. As with bunions, bunionettes are typically caused by wearing shoes that are too tight, and treatment protocols are very similar.

How can a bunion be treated?

You should take steps to treat a bunion even if it is not yet painful. If you continue to wear the same types of footwear, your bunion will only get worse over time. It’s best to consult with an experienced foot and ankle specialist, who can help you learn what shoes are best for your feet and recommend any additional treatment options.

At Carolina Hand & Sports Medicine, our board certified orthopedic surgeons have years of experience helping patients correct bunions and overcome foot pain. During an office visit, we will discuss your concerns, examine your foot and talk to you about solutions that best fit your needs.

Non-surgical bunion treatments

Bunions that are not very painful and do not interfere with a patient’s desired activities can usually be treated without surgery. Treatments may include:

  • Switching to wider, low-heeled shoes. Wearing properly fitting footwear is the single most important thing you can do to relieve discomfort and keep bunions for getting worse.
  • Padding or toe spacers. Protective pads can help ease pressure on bunions, while toe spacers help improve alignment of the big toe joint while in place.
  • Icing and medication. Anti-inflammatory medicines, such as ibuprofen (Advil) or naproxen (Aleve), as well as periodic icing, can temporarily alleviate pain and swelling.

Can a bunion go away on its own?

It’s important to understand that non-surgical bunion treatments can relieve pain and keep a bunion from worsening, but once formed, a bunion will not go away on its own. The deformity to the joint is typically permanent unless surgically corrected.

Bunion surgery (bunionectomy)

Surgery is usually recommended if a bunion is causing significant pain, interfering with a patient’s ability to walk or perform other desired activities, or not responding well to non-surgical treatments.

Our Asheville orthopedic surgeons typically perform bunion removal as an outpatient surgery. The exact  techniques used depend on the size and severity of the bunion, but may include:

  • Repairing tendons and ligaments around the affected joint
  • Cutting the bones in the big toe and/or forefoot to realign the joint
  • Removing the bony protrusion
  • Resurfacing the joint and realigning with screws, plates or wires

What is recovery like after bunion surgery?

Most patients are non-weight bearing on the operated foot for 2 to 6 weeks after bunion surgery; during this time, you will need to use crutches. You will then need to wear a special protective shoe for several additional weeks.

Physical therapy is usually included in the recovery process to help strengthen your foot after surgery and ensure a complete recovery. High-impact activities, such as running, can usually be resumed gradually after about 8 to 12 weeks.

If surgery is recommended, we will explain the procedure and recovery expectations in detail with you.

Contact us to learn more or make an appointment

There’s no need to let a painful bunion prevent you from enjoying life to the fullest. Our experienced orthopedic team are here to help. Please call 828-253-7521 or contact us today to make an appointment.

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