The operation to remove bunion may be considered minor surgery, but it is not minor to the person who has it. Recovery from the surgery can take one to two months, but it may take as long as six months for the person to feel “100 percent” normal, and some patients have some mild swelling for as long as a year. There are three main types of bunion surgery: osteotomy, exostectomy and arthrodesis and there might be minor differences in what a patient needs to do to heal from them. Following are eight tips that can help the recovery period be quick, complete and relatively comfortable:
1. Start taking pain medicines even before the anesthesia wears off completely. Toughing out the pain only prolongs the healing process. The doctor will most likely prescribe opioids, which can be addictive. They should only be taken under the doctor’s supervision, and the patient must stop taking them when they are no longer in pain. This should happen about a week after the surgery.
2. The doctor prescribes antibiotics to prevent infection, and the patient should be careful to take the entire course of antibiotics even if they feel well. The patient may also wish to take their temperature on a regular basis, for an elevated temperature is a sign that an infection is in the offing.
3. Avoid getting the stitches or bandages wet. This means the patient should avoid baths, showers or swimming. Wet dressings and stitches increase the risk of infection and can cause tissue to slough off. Even if this is avoided, there’s a risk of the patient slipping and falling on a wet surface because their balance is impaired.
If a patient feels they must bathe, they’ll need to keep their foot out of the water or cover it with a plastic bag or another waterproof garment.
4. The patient needs to favor the foot that was operated on even if they have a brace or crutches. Advanced Foot and Ankle Institute of Georgia LLC said, “Putting weight on the foot too soon after the surgery can cause the bones to move out of alignment.” This can cause the bunion to return. The patient should learn to use crutches and braces, but they should not push themselves to the point of pain. Patients should not try to drive until the bones in their foot are healed. This is especially important if the right foot was the one operated on.
5. Relieve inflammation and pain at the surgical site with ice compresses. Do not put ice directly on the foot. Elevating the foot also helps reduce swelling.
6. When it’s time to wear shoes, make sure they are roomy. Women should avoid high heels for at least half a year after their bunion surgery, and some doctors recommend that their patients never wear high heels again.
7. Do the exercises recommend by the physical therapist if the doctor recommends one. These include passive and active range of motion exercises. During the passive range of motion exercises, the therapist manipulates the person’s foot while the patient lies on a treatment table. These kinds of exercises are done soon after the surgery. Active range of motion exercises are done by the patient without the therapist’s help and include picking up marbles with their toes, use of a resistance band to allow them to stretch their foot and ankle, walking and some weight bearing exercises.
Bunion surgery is common, and the prognosis for the overwhelming majority of people who have it is excellent. Taking care of the foot as it heals and exercising to help it regain its range of motion and lessen pain, stiffness and swelling are important for a complete and pain-free recovery.