Planning your bunion surgery is important.  Traditional bunion surgery has a negative reputation, and for good reason.  It is known as one of the most painful surgeries. The good news is that it doesn’t need to be that way!

I tell every patient that they should have their bunion fixed BEFORE it hurts or BEFORE it starts affecting the other toes. For example, before your second toe (next to the big toe) starts hammering, lifting up or changing the way that it looks.

If you wait too long to have your bunion fixed there are ramifications. Some include:

  1. Bunions progressively get worse.  As they get worse, surgery usually becomes more complex.
  2. The longer you wait to fix it, the more cartilage can wear away. The joint is like a car tire, if it is off alignment it starts to wear more on one side and that can cause irreparable damage.
  3.  If you wait too long to fix your bunion, it may limit how good of a surgical result you have. It also may dictate a larger, more complicated procedure that results in a longer recovery.
  4. Why live in pain if you don’t have to?

As far as scheduling your bunion surgery, recovery time is probably the biggest factor.

How long does it take for the bone to fully heal?

It takes about three months for the bone to fully heal. Luckily, you don’t have to wait that long to use your feet!

Here in Wisconsin, Aaron Rogers is a quarterback for the Green Bay Packers. He has broken both his left and his right collarbone. One he had surgically repaired, the other he did not, but both times he broke it he did not need to wait twelve weeks to return back to the field.  Three months is about the time before you are able to run full speed or push your new bunionless foot, so keep that in mind.

Will you have to take three months off after bunion surgery?

Job Considerations

I suppose if you are a professional athlete, you shoul take 3 months off from playing with intensity. Most people do not fully rely on their feet for their job. Most employers offer light-duty work work options during healing.

Type of Bunion Surgery – Traditional Open-Foot Bunion Surgery

Traditional open-foot bunion surgery comes with the longest recovery and the longest non-weight-bearing period in a big hard cast that you can’t get wet.  The longest are typically procedures that involve fusing a joint, like a Lapidus bunionectomy or a MPJ fusion.

Also watch out for procedures that are unstable like an opening or closing base wedge osteotomy.  Unstable procedures usually require a lot of hardware – screws, plates and wires – which cause pain.

I would say that the average time off of your feet after an open-foot procedures is six weeks, and protected weight bearing in a walking boot for an additional six weeks after that. The recovery is long because the bone needs time to heal around the hardware and incorporate it into the skeletal structure.  If the bones shift before healing is complete, additional “bone grafting” surgery might be required.

Minimally Invasive Bunion Surgery Recovery Time

Minimally invasive bunion surgery can be as simple as shaving the bump off of your bunion.

Minimally invasive bunion surgery lets you walk right out of the operating room with almost no pain.  You can even drive yourself directly to work.  Your feet are immediately able to bear your weight.  For the first week or two, just be careful to not stand or walk too much.  This is ideal for light-duty sitting work.  No one has to take care of you.  You don’t miss work and you remain independent.

You are not waiting for the bones to heal, but rather just the small skin incision. A lot of times, in addition to shaving the bump off of the bone, I create a small cut in the the two bones that make up your bunion, allowing us to realign the joint or shift the bones into a more natural position. Because we minimize damage to the surrounding soft tissues, they are able to maintain stability and alignment.

We then use a soft cast for external stabilization, for up to four weeks. Although you can walk, it is important to take it easy after the first four weeks of bunion surgery. We suggest you ice your foot and elevated it when possible.  You can maintain most upper body workouts and can stay active on a recumbent bike or the elliptical machine a week or two after surgery, as the doctor permits.

At the four-week mark, we normally take an x-ray and our patients are in a tennis shoe or some other roomy, stable shoe for two to four weeks until they can start wearing shoes without barring any swelling.

Our patients walk out of the operating room as soon as I apply the postoperative bandage. Many times they drive straight to work.  They can even go up and down stairs.

Comfortable support shoes for post operation bunion surgery!

comfortable post-surgery boots are good

Comfortable support shoes for post operation bunion surgery!

There is no long-term period of laying around, needing crutches, walkers, scooters or a big boot.

Is it time for you to fix your bunion? Give us a call today and let’s schedule an appointment.

FAQ – When To Have Bunion Surgery

Is it better to have bunion surgery early?

Experts offer conflicting opinions about when to have bunion surgery. Some say the earlier the better while others recommend waiting until it starts to hurt or interfere with your life. The only way to be sure is to have your bunion looked at by a qualified professional.

How do I know if my bunion needs surgery?

The only way to know for sure is to get the advice of a qualified professional. If your bunion hurts, if the big toe is pressing against the other toes and if your bunion is interfering with your normal life, chances are that a qualified professional will recommend surgery.

When should I have bunion surgery?

When your bunion starts to hurt or interfere with your normal life, you should consider surgery. Also consider surgery when the big toe pushes against the other toes. If you have a bunion at any stage of growth, you should consult with a qualified professional.