Bunion Surgery Recovery

Do you have an enlarged tissue or bone around a joint at the base of the little or big toe? This growth is called a hullux valgus, or simply a bunion. While most bunions can be treated without having to go through surgery, the procedure can help correct deformities on the foot, reduce pain and help you get back to your normal routine in a short period of time. Wondering about the time it takes for recovery after a bunion surgery? Read on to find out.

Bunion Surgery Recovery: Timeline

Recovery starts at the surgical center and ends at the home of the patient. After the bunionectomy, post-surgical care is provided immediately at the surgical center. The foot is monitored for excessive swelling and bleeding. You can expect to see some swelling in the area after the procedure. You will stay at the recovery area of the surgical center for several hours prior to being discharged. This gives the medical professional time to monitor the after-effects of the anesthesia as it wears off. Some of the common effects include vomiting and nausea. You will be given a snack such as juice and crackers to see how you respond.  

The patient will only be discharged after anesthesia wears off completely and the blood pressure, breathing and pulse are stable. The doctor will give you home care tips for the foot in the first few weeks to accelerate bunion surgery recovery. You might be discharged wearing a cast or special surgical shoeto protect the foot.

During the first week after surgery, you should get proper rest and apply ice to relive any pain and swelling. Your doctor can prescribe painkillers for when the pain gets unbearable. You shouldn’t bathe or swim during this time as getting the dressing wet could increase your chances of infection. At the end of the first week, you should go back to your doctor for check up and to have your dressing changed.

During the second week, you should start trying to move around with support. Make sure not to strain or put too much pressure on your foot. You can now start taking baths. By the end of this week or the 3rd, you can stop using crutches and have any dressing and stitches removed.

During the fourth week, you can resume driving if you feel comfortable to do an emergency stop. You might need to inform your insurer about your injury.
In the three to six month period, your foot should be starting to get back to normal. You might experience occasional swelling after a long day at work, but it should go down on its own. You can also start wearing normal shoes and exercising. If you are having trouble with your workouts, seek the help of a physiotherapist. You should also be able to play some impact sports by the end of the sixth month under the advice of your doctor.

By the end of one year, you foot should have healed fully.

Tips on Bunion Surgery Recovery

  • Keep your dressing dry

At no point should the dressing come into contact with water as this will interfere with the recovery. If you need to take a shower, place a plastic bag over your foot as protection.

  • Avoid self-medication

Medications such as aspirin could increase the chances of bleeding after surgery. Only take medication recommended by your doctor.

  • Wear the right shoes

After having your dressing removed, you can now wear normal shoes. However, you should only wear soft leather oxfords or athletic shoes for the first few months as the recovery process is not complete. Avoid any fashion shoes such as high heels during the first six months.

  • Exercise

You doctor might recommend some exercise or physical therapy to help with bunion surgery recovery. This will restore the strength and the range of motion in your foot. You might be required to exercise using a surgical band to help strengthen your ankle or use marbles to help restore motion in your toes. Do not over exert yourself during your workouts. Start slow and follow the guidance of your physical therapist or doctor. 

  • Pace yourself based on the type of surgery you had

Some bunion surgeries allow you to walk in a bunion shoe immediately after the procedure. Others might require you to walk with crutches. The larger the bunion, the longer you will have to wait before exerting any weight on the leg. If the bone work is close to your big toe joint, then you might be allowed to walk after surgery. This is the case for mild to moderate bunions. When the bone work is far away from the big toe joint, a cast and crutches might be needed. This is recommended for moderate to large bunions. Your surgeon should have the last word on how you pace yourself during bunion surgery recovery.

Signs to Watch Out for During Recovery

If you notice any of the following symptoms, call your doctor immediately:

  • Chills
  • Fever
  • The area around the dressing feeling warm and appearing red
  • Increased or persistent pain in the area around the surgical site
  • Dressing gets wet and falls off
  • Dressing becomes bloody
  • Swollen calf above the foot that was operated on

Bunion Surgery Recovery: Others’ Experiences

I’m a very active person and run a lot. I used to feel pain after running due to my bunions. On consulting my doctor, he recommended that I have the bunions removed to prevent pain in the future. I went through surgery 2 weeks ago. The experience hasn’t been that bad apart from the fact that I cannot exercise the way I used to. I experienced a bit of pain for the first 2 or 3 days, but now it has subsided.

I’m in my 60’s and I went through minimally invasive bunion surgery at an orthopedic center with great results. I only experienced slight pain after the anesthesia wore off. No cast was needed after my surgery, only thick bandages. I had to wear non-weight bearing shoe and use crutches for walking for 2 weeks. 

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