If you’re having surgery to correct a bunion, you can look forward to a future where you’ll likely experience less pain and discomfort as you walk. Just remember that bunion surgery, like many other procedures, requires a recovery period during which you might even feel temporarily “worse” than you did before the procedure.
But don’t worry. That’s part of your recovery — and thanks to advances and improvements in bunion surgeries, recovery isn’t as difficult as it’s been in the past. This article will help explain the bunion surgery recovery process.
Your Bunion Surgery
Your orthopedic surgeon will determine the exact procedure you’ll undergo, based on factors related to your condition, but generally, the surgery will involve realigning the bones and repairing the surrounding soft tissue. The procedure could involve the following:
- Cuts in the skin, bone, and tissue
- Screws, pins, and plates inserted to hold a bone in place
- Removing then realigning a joint
- Removing cartilage
- Joint or bone fusion
Any of these steps will require some time to heal and recover.
After Your Bunion Surgery
Your recovery begins immediately after your procedure. Usually, you’ll wait in the recovery room for up to two hours before you’re discharged, but treatment for severe bunions may require an overnight stay. Either way, you’ll need to have someone drive you home, because you’ll be in no condition to operate a car.
You’ll immediately notice that the surgical area will have stitches and bandages. And it’s obvious that recovering from foot surgery will require extra care when you walk. You’ll need to wear a protective shoe or boot, and you’ll likely need a walking aid such as crutches, a walker, or a scooter because you won’t want to put any weight on your foot. Some people are able to walk on their heels without much aid, but different bunion surgery techniques have different weight-bearing limitations.
Remember too that your first steps out of bed might be most difficult because you’re not used to this new way of walking, and you might still be affected by the anesthesia. Take things slowly and don’t rush!
Preparing for Bunion Surgery Recovery at Home
Before your surgery you should ensure that you’ve prepared your home so you can move around while you recover. This includes:
- Having enough pillows wherever you plan to rest and sleep
- Keeping important items within reach
- Clearing enough room to navigate while in crutches or a walker
- Preparing a shower chair or bench so you can clean yourself without getting your foot wet
The Healing Process for Bunion Surgery Recovery at Home
Your stitches will likely be removed two to three weeks after your bunion surgery. Prior to this, however, you should alert your doctor if you notice any bleeding, excessive pain, or swelling that doesn’t go away after elevating your foot. When your stitches are removed you will still likely wear a protective shoe or boot.
Your doctor will tell you when you can return to wearing your regular shoes — sometimes as soon as six weeks, sometimes eight weeks or longer — and it might be recommended that you wear athletic shoes or shoes that are easy to slip on and off. (Not surprisingly, high heels shouldn’t be worn during this time.)
On average, it can take from 6 to 12 weeks — or longer — for your bones to fully heal. During this time you should avoid putting your weight on the front of your foot, and avoid activities such as driving.
Most importantly, remember to keep your foot dry and elevated to avoid the risk of infection and swelling, and to follow any additional instructions (such as when to return to daily activities, or regarding physical therapy) that your doctor provides. Following these instructions will not only ensure the fastest possible recovery, but also reduce the risk of the bunion returning.