Bunion Surgery Recovery Time

Bunion surgery is done to relieve pain and restore normal alignment of the joint. It typically involves an incision at the top or side of the big toe joint, and the removal or realignment of soft tissue and bone. Depending on the procedures performed, the length of recovery may vary among patients. Your foot and ankle surgeon will provide detailed information on post-surgery recovery. In some cases, there is a risk of bunion recurrence. By following the doctor's instructions to wear arch supports or orthotics in their shoes, patients can assist in preventing recurrence.

Bunion Surgery Recovery Time

In most cases, the post-surgery recovery period takes from 6 weeks to 6 months. This depends on the amount of soft tissue and bone affected, as well as your health condition. It may take as long as 1 year for a patient to completely heal. It takes 6 weeks or more for bone healing after osteotomy or bone cut. Those who smoke or are in poor medical health may have a longer healing period. A detailed timeline can be found below. You can see what to expect at a particular time after bunion surgery.

Week One

  • Take complete rest and keep your foot elevated as much as possible.
  • Apply ice on the affected area to relieve the swelling and pain.
  • Regularly take your prescribed painkillers, beginning before the anesthetic wears off.
  • Avoid activities like swimming or even bathing, as the risk of tissue loss and infection increases if your dressing becomes wet. In addition, you may slip or fall while taking a bath, increasing your risk of displacing and even breaking the bones in your foot.
  • End of week one: You will have a post-surgery check-up and get your dressing changed. You may be required to have an X-ray in case pins, screws or plates have been used.

Week Two

  • You should attempt to move around with the assistance of stick or crutches. Stop in case you find it painful.
  • Your foot should remain elevated for as long as possible while sitting.
  • If you continue to require painkillers, you may be overdoing physical activity.
  • You can start bathing and swimming again.
  • End of week two: The stiches are removed. In case you’ve had stitches under your foot, it will have to wait till the end of the third week. You can begin walking around more, but only cover short distances. You may no longer require the assistance of crutches.

Week Four

  • You can start driving again if it is possible for you to do an emergency stop without experiencing any discomfort.
  • Walking cast, splints, special shoes, or wooden shoes are sometimes used for assistance. In some cases, regular shoes can be worn in about 4 to 5 weeks. But some procedures may require wearing special shoes for about 8 weeks or longer post-surgery.

Week Six

  • Your foot should begin to return back to normal as the swelling subsides but there might still be some left.
  • You can usually go back to work if your job doesn't involve standing or walking for prolonged periods of time. You should seek your surgeon's advice on this.
  • You may have to go for a check-up, and have any casts or external wires removed.
  • In case you are facing difficulty in performing your exercises, you will have to be reviewed by your doctor who may refer you to a physiotherapist for further assistance.
  • For certain procedures, no weight can be put on the foot for 6 to 8 weeks after surgery. You will be eased into putting weight on your foot in a few more weeks of partial weight bearing, with the foot in a special shoe or boot. This helps to keep the bones and soft tissues steady as they heal.

Three to Six Months

  • Usually three months after the surgery, you’ll have another check-up.
  • Your bones should be healed and you should be relieved of the pain.
  • Your swelling will have subsided but slight swelling may continue for around a year after surgery.
  • You should be able to feel the benefits of undergoing surgery by now and be physically fit to play sports again, provided that you receive your surgeon's approval.

Note

During the bunion surgery recovery time, remember to notify your doctor in case any of the following occur:

  • Fever
  • Bleeding or other drainage from the incision site
  • Swelling in lower leg of the affected foot
  • Increase in pain around the incision site

How to Promote Healing After Bunion Surgery

Following your doctor's instructions in the first few weeks are essential for the success of your surgery. You will have to schedule regular check-ups with your doctor for several months to ensure proper healing of your foot.

1. Dressing Care

When discharged from the hospital, your foot will be in bandages, supporting your toe in its corrected position. Keeping your toe in this position is essential to healing, so make sure you follow your doctor’s instructions about dressing. Don't change or disturb your dressing without consulting with your doctor. Interference with the healing process can result in recurrence of the bunion. The stiches are normally removed 2 weeks after surgery but the dressing is required to support your foot for the next 6 to 12 weeks.

2. Medications

The most effective pain medications to ease post-surgical discomfort during bunion surgery recovery time are opioids. They are however addictive and must be used only as directed by your doctor. Discontinue opioids as soon as you feel improvement in your pain. Consult your doctor in case your pain has not improved within a few days after surgery. In addition to the painkillers, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics to prevent your wound from infections post-surgery.

3. Relieving Swelling

It is common for you to have swelling in your foot from 6 months up to a year after surgery. You can apply ice to relieve swelling, never apply it directly on your skin.

4. Bearing Weight

Depending upon the type of procedure, your doctor will give you strict instructions about putting weight on your foot. If you put weight on your foot too early or without proper support, the bones can shift and the bunion correction will be lost. You may be allowed to walk on your foot right after surgery, but you will have to wear a special surgical shoe to protect the bunion correction.

In some cases, a period of no-weight bearing is important to ensure bone healing. Crutches and a newer alternative called a knee walker are usually used to avoid putting any weight on the foot. A knee walker has four wheels and functions like a scooter. You place the knee of your affected foot on a padded cushion and push yourself along using your healthy foot.

5. Physical Therapy

Your doctor will recommend specific exercises to help restore your foot's strength and range of motion after surgery. Exercises using a surgical band help to strengthen your ankle. Some exercises using marbles help restore motion in your toes. You can find some exercises to increase range of motion after bunion surgery below.

6. Shoe Wear

After the initial rehabilitation period, your doctor will advise you on shoe wear. To protect the bunion correction until the bones have completely healed, athletic shoes or soft leather oxford type shoes are the best. Avoid wearing fashion shoes until your doctor allows during bunion surgery recovery time. Your doctor may even recommend that you never return to wearing high-heeled shoes.

 
 
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