Bunions -- those unattractive bumps where the big toe joint becomes misaligned where it connects to the foot -- can be painful and prevent you from engaging in your favorite activities, or even wearing your favorite shoes. Also known clinically as hallux valgus, bunions affect 23 percent of the adult population in the U.S. between the ages of 18 and 65 and are more common in women over 65 years old.

Once a bunion becomes a problem for you, surgery to straighten the misaligned toe joint may be a consideration.

Of course, your podiatrist is going to spell out the benefits and limitations of such a surgery and explain what you need to do in the recovery period for best results. But if you're not to the point of actually scheduling the surgery, you may want to do some research and consider what recovery is like. Together with your doctor's advice, that will help you make a decision about whether and when you want to have the operation.

When is Surgery the Right Option?

Many bunion sufferers who see podiatrists decide to have an operation to remove the bunion. The decision is a personal one that depends on how much the quality of life is impacted. Some reasons to have bunion surgery include:

  • Excessive pain at the bunion site
  • Pain on the ball of the foot
  • Trouble walking
  • Difficulty finding shoes that fit
  • Bunion starts to force the second toe over and up
  • Non-surgical treatments no longer work

It's not unheard of for patients to factor in cosmetic reasons for the surgery, either. However, for most patients, pain is a big reason to go under the knife.

Recovery Time for Bunion Surgery

Most bunion surgeries realign the entire big toe, and are fairly invasive. It takes roughly 6 to 12 weeks to heal from the surgery, but with advances in how the operation is performed and the options available to you afterward, you may be able to stay pretty active during that period.

The real question is how large the bunion is before surgery and exactly how extensive the procedure needs to be. There are several types of bunion surgeries, from an exostectomy where the "bump" is shaved off with a surgical saw to a lapidus bunionectomy, where the bones are fused together for stability.

Small and medium sized bunions may be easier to fix than larger ones (a good reason to consider surgery early, before the bunions increase in size). Sometimes patients who have larger bunions need a cast and crutches during their recovery, although some newer synthetic bone implant materials speed the healing process and reduce the need for crutches.

You will need to limit activities that are hard on the feet, such as running, jogging and sports like basketball or soccer, for several weeks after surgery. For most people who are not athletes, though, the surgery recovery allows for common activities like driving and shopping more quickly.

For more information, contact Affiliated Ankle & Foot Care Center or a similar location.