Deciding to go through with bunion surgery is a big decision. Don't worry--it will be well worth it.
After rehabilitation, you'll have less pain and the ability do things you couldn't do before. To ensure a successful bunion surgery, though, it's imperative that you stick to a recovery regiment.
Full bunion surgery recovery takes about four to six months. Of course, recovery is different for everyone, depending on your age and the specifics of the surgery.
Unfortunately, there's a lot of misinformation out there. One great way to prepare for bunion surgery is to debunk myths you may have heard.
Here you'll find a list of tips to guide you through bunion surgery recovery. This will help you return to your normal lifestyle as soon as possible.
What to Expect Immediately After Surgery
Immediately after surgery, your foot will be bandaged. These bandages will hold your toes in a good position for healing.
There will also be dressings over the incision and stitches. Depending on the procedure, you may also have a cast.
The hospital will give you a special shoe or boot to wear during your first few weeks post-operation. It's specially designed to protect your foot by redistributing weight and not placing pressure on healing areas.
You may also receive crutches. The length of time crutches are needed varies from person to person.
Six Weeks After Surgery
In your first few weeks of recovery, it's crucial that you do three things:
- Elevate your foot.
- Keep your dressings dry.
- Stay off the foot as much as possible.
Below is a more in-depth look at these steps and proper care for a full bunion surgery recovery.
Elevating your foot reduces swelling and pain. Try to do it as much as possible in the two weeks immediately after surgery.
Elevate it higher than your groin-area so fluids can effectively drain. Make sure that your knee is supported to avoid discomfort or pain in your knees.
If you're good about elevating, it will expedite your healing process.
Ease into Walking
Right after surgery, only walk if necessary. Too much pressure on your foot will cause additional swelling.
When you do walk, be sure to wear the surgical shoe or boot you were given. It puts the weight on your heel and not on the tender part of your foot.
Depending on your procedure, you may need crutches for up to six weeks. Consult with your doctor or physical therapist on how much weight you can bear and how long you can spend standing or walking.
Don't Forget to Ice
When it comes to decreasing pain and swelling, ice is your best friend.
Be really good about icing your foot, especially in those crucial weeks post-operation. Position the ice pack so it's not weighing heavily on the operated area.
A recommended icing regiment is 15-20 minutes on, three times a day, with an hour or so in between icing periods. Don't apply ice directly to your skin. Wrap it in a towel before placing it on your foot.
Consult your doctor's office for their recommended icing instructions.
After your surgery, keep the dressings on.
Most important of all, keep them dry. This is essential for protecting your wounds, avoiding infection, and keeping your toes in the proper position.
For bathing, you'll have to do sponge baths or buy a waterproof protector for your feet. It's not recommended to wrap your feet in waterproof bags and tape, as it's not always effective.
Caring for the Incision Site
After two weeks or so, your dressings and stitches will be removed at the doctor's office. At this point, you can get your feet wet.
But, depending on your specific procedure, you may have to wear new dressings or a cast for a few additional weeks. This will ensure your toes stay in place for proper healing.
Also, ask your doctor about topical treatment to reduce the appearance of your scars.
Stay on schedule with the medications your doctor prescribes for you. You may be prescribed painkillers and antibiotics to prevent infection.
Always tell your doctor or nurse about any other medication you take, as they can interact with your prescriptions.
Also, snack frequently and eat regular meals. Some pain medication can be hard on the stomach. Keeping food in your system will help prevent nausea or vomiting.
Ask your doctor about physical therapy. It can help get you back on your feet quicker. Your physical therapist can also give you additional bunion surgery recovery advice.
If you go through physical therapy, you'll be given a list of exercises to do at home. Be religious about doing them, as they'll help with flexibility, range of motion, and strength.
Consult your doctor about when you can get back behind the wheel.
If your driving foot was not operated on, you can probably drive a few weeks after surgery. Otherwise, you'll likely need to wait four to eight weeks.
Call Your Doctor If
During your bunion surgery recovery, contact your doctor immediately if you experience:
- Your dressings get wet or they come undone (do not rewrap them yourself)
- Bleeding or oozing through dressings
- You run a fever
- Redness, inflammation, warmth, bleeding or increased swelling in your feet
- Lower leg swelling or pain
- Significant increase in your pain
- Numbness in your feet or a "pins and needles" feeling
Two to Six Months Post-Operation
Depending on your operation, once you're two months out from surgery you can slowly increase your activity level.
Returning to Work
The day to day requirements of your job will affect how quickly you can get back to work.
If you sit for most of the day, you can probably return to work within six weeks. If you're on your feet, you may need as long as three months to fully heal.
Consult your doctor's staff on a return to work plan.
Your doctor will let you know when you can stop wearing the medical boot and return to normal footwear.
You want to wear shoes that are supportive, soft, and unrestrictive. You won't be able to wear high heels or tight-fitting shoes for at least six months after your surgery.
Exercise and Sports
Everyone heals differently, and you'll want to check with your doctor about how active you can be.
Generally, three to six months after surgery is when people can get back into more rigorous activity.
Bunion Surgery Recovery Differs for Everyone
The most important thing to remember is that healing and recovery are different for every person.
Listen to your body and consult your doctor and physical therapist with any questions.
For more information about bunions.