Getting the Best Treatment for Bunions

Dr. Anthony Spitz, DPM

Podiatrist & Ankle and Foot Surgeon located in Wheeling, IL

Imagine if you lived in a house or apartment where, every other month, the thermostat would raise the temperature by one degree. And you couldn’t change it back.

For a few months, or maybe even a year, you might not even notice anything unusual. But after a couple of years, you’re sweating miserably in a room that’s always above 90 degrees!

Bunions are like that. They may not develop quickly, but once the bump at the base of your big toe gets large enough, it can cause a ton of pain and a massive amount of disruption in your life.

If you want to avoid that fate for yourself, it’s important to make sure you get the best possible treatment at the best possible time!

Our Simple Philosophy for Bunion Care

There are many possible directions one can go when it comes to treating bunions, depending on the severity of the condition, the lifestyle of the patient, and the techniques used by the doctor. It’s not even simply a matter of conservative vs surgical care; it also matters what types of conservative treatments are offered and, especially, which surgical procedures the doctor is trained in.

In other words, choosing a specialist with the right philosophy and skillset can make a huge difference.

For us, the philosophy is relatively simple. Our goal is to get you back to living the lifestyle you want to live using the least invasive and disruptive procedures possible to achieve it.

That means, whenever possible, managing your bunion successfully through conservative care. But it also means training in advanced surgical techniques for cases that need a more aggressive approach. Dr. Spitz has you covered there—he’s one of just three doctors in Illinois practicing minimally invasive bunion surgery!

More on that in a moment. First let’s explore conservative care.

Conservative Bunion Treatment

Let’s be upfront about the limitations of conservative therapy. Once a bunion has started to grow, and the toe started to drift, surgery is the only way to permanently put it back into place. Bunions do not get better on their own.

However, in our view the most important thing is that you are able to maintain full activity and a high quality of life, free from pain. If your bunion is still in the early stages of progression, the right mix of conservative therapies can stave off symptoms and even slow the bunion’s rate of progression.

As long as you are happy, not dealing with daily pain, and able to do the things you love to do successfully, we are happy to stick with non-surgical remedies as long as possible!

Just keep in mind that if you want conservative therapies to actually work, you need to come see us as soon as possible—even when your bunion doesn’t really even hurt yet. Wait too long, and surgery will almost certainly be required.

Depending on the causes and severity of your bunion, as well as other factors, we may recommend management strategies such as:

Switching shoes. As the bump gets larger, you may need to prioritize shoes that are wide enough around the balls of the feet and in the toe box to easily accommodate the deformity without excess friction or pressure.

Bunion pads. Additionally, you may benefit from a simple bunion pad to further reduce painful pressure or friction. Make sure these pads are non-medicated.

Shoe inserts / orthotics. The right set of orthotics can redistribute pressure across the soles of your feet, protecting the unstable toe joint. Functional custom orthotics can even correct abnormal gait patterns that may be a contributing cause to the worsening of your bunion.

Bunion splint. Often worn at night, bunion splits can hold your toe in the correct anatomical position while you sleep, so long as the joint remains flexible enough to do so.

Pain relief treatments. For many people, icing or over-the-counter NSAIDs will be sufficient for temporary spikes in pain. If necessary, we can provide more advanced remedies.

Bunion Surgery (including Minimal Incision)

When conservative treatments are no longer enough to manage your bunion successfully and maintain your quality of life, surgery is the logical next step. There are actually many different types of procedures that can be performed, and not all of them will be appropriate for every bunion.

As previously mentioned, one advanced surgical option we can provide to many of our bunion patients is minimal incision surgery, also known as minimally invasive surgery.

Traditional bunion surgeries require fairly large incisions, while (as you might expect based on the name) minimal incision surgery requires only very small ones—sometimes half an inch or less. Specialized tools and a camera on a scope are used to perform the surgery.

There are many advantages to choosing a minimally invasive approach whenever possible, including:

  • Faster recovery time.
  • Less post-surgical pain.
  • Lower risk of post-surgical complications.
  • Less scarring.
  • Less hardware (screws, pins, etc.).
  • Can be performed under local anesthesia.
  • Can be performed in an office surgical suite—so you won’t need to go to (or stay at) the hospital.
  • Often lower cost.

The Right Treatment at the Right Time

It’s worth repeating: the best decision you can make about your bunion is to seek out a knowledgeable, highly skilled professional as soon as possible once you notice any misalignment or deformity in your foot.

The sooner we get involved, the more options we’ll have to help you—and the less invasive those options will tend to be.

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