Living with a bunion can be an uncomfortable and often painful experience. Yet many people choose to quietly suffer because they are afraid of missing too much work. Foot surgery is something that scares people. You typically need your feet to do your job, and many times foot surgeries can put people out of commission for weeks.
Although using splints and pads can alleviate pain temporarily, it’s not a permanent fix. Eventually, a bunion will become disruptive enough you will need surgery, and the longer you wait, the more chances you will be out even longer.
What is a Bunion?
A bunion is a disfiguration of the first joint of the big toe. The joint protrudes out as the big toe bends inward toward the other toes. It can be very painful, especially in severe cases. A bunion is caused by the ligaments in the foot becomes out of balance.
Many people are actually unsure of what a bunion is and whether they have one. If you have a bony bump that forms at the base of your big toe, and your big toe points toward your second, chances are you have a bunion. It’s more common than people realize, with up to a third of the global population suffering from the affliction.
A bunion can be caused by a variety of things, from genetics to poor ambulation, and even bad shoes. Many choose to forgo surgery when they feel discomfort. It isn’t until real pain strikes, that people begin to consider a surgical method. You want to choose a method that offers quick recovery time and minimal pain and inconvenience.
The Traditional Method of Bunion Surgery
The traditional means of operating on a bunion involves what one might think when picturing a surgery. Patients are admitted to the hospital and put under anesthesia. When they wake up, there is often a period of disorientation, followed by severe pain. A cast is put on and after a few weeks, they must return to remove all the sutures running down the length of their foot.
There are over a hundred different types of bunion surgeries, most of which apply to mild cases. However, the traditional method of bunion surgery still pulls people off their feet for a minimum of two weeks. Full recovery from the surgery alone takes up to six weeks, and then six months for total rehabilitation.
During the first two weeks, patients must wear a surgical boot or cast to stabilize the foot. After that, they must wear a brace. Post-op from the traditional method means the patient cannot bear any weight on the foot for some time and will need crutches to ambulate. As you gradually place weight on your foot, you can start using a cane.
The foot should be iced daily, and the patient won’t be able to drive for at least two weeks. The foot will be swollen for several months and women should not wear anything other than flats for at least 6 months. In some cases, people may need to see a physical therapist to learn exercises that strengthen their foot and lower leg.
The length of time a person is out of work depends on the traditional surgery they have, the extent of the issue, and the type of job duties they have. For people that work in an office environment or those who are sitting all day, they can be back to work, tentatively, in a week. Light duty or for those who are standing all day (like food or retail) should expect to be out of work for several weeks.
Jobs with high impact, or for people who perform manual labor, they will be out of work the longest; up to six weeks. Unfortunately, these are often the exact individuals who suffer from bunions the most because of the high demand of their work. People who have severe bunions also will need to take over a month off and may even need a full cast.
Minimally Invasive Bunion Surgery
Eventually, doctors began to notice this issue and in the 1990’s they developed a method of bunion surgery that eliminated the need for hospitalization or prolonged disability. That meant more people were able to have the procedure done, without suffering financial hardship.
The technique was known as “minimally invasive surgery” or MIS and it altered patient satisfaction forever. One study determined that 85% of patients who treated their bunions with MIS reported good to very good results. Finally, there is an alternative to missing weeks of work and pay just to fix your feet.
The Out-Patient Approach
Since minimally invasive surgery involves a tiny incision, there is no need for a patient to be hospitalized. This opens up the procedure to a lot more people who may not be able to go under anesthesia or be intubated. It also means no one waiting long hours for the patient to wake up. No worried family members in the sitting area.
The majority of bunions are mild and thus, MIS is the best approach. Unlike traditional methods, patients will not leave with a cast or a scooter. Patients can return to work the same day because they are given a small, post-operative shoe. Many people are shocked to hear the vast difference between the two procedures.
Family and Friends
Another great advantage of minimally invasive bunion surgery is that family and friends don’t have to miss work either. During traditional foot surgery, someone needs to play the caretaker. A person will still need continuous attention on the first day or two. MIS ensures your family doesn’t miss work. It puts the healing back in the hands of the patient.
The amount of work you miss depends on a variety of factors. The one thing an individual can control is when they choose to support. The simple knowledge that an out-patient procedure exists can be life-changing for some people. Without the worry of losing work, people are free to seek help and heal with peace of mind.
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