Lots of people think that the only meaningful, long-term way to deal with bunions is through surgery. It’s a common perception—one we’ve talked about a few times before.
The thing is, it’s not completely true.
Quite often, you will have other options available to you! And if you’re currently dealing with a bunion on one or both feet, you no doubt want to know what those options are.
The answer depends on your specific circumstances, of course. But the good news is that, at Advanced Foot & Ankle, we’ll make every effort possible to help you deal with your condition conservatively.
Before we get into what your options might be, though, there’s one really important thing you should understand:
The Earlier You See Us, The More Options Are on the Table
Imagine there’s a big yard sale going on in your neighborhood this weekend. Saturday and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Everything must go!
If you arrive at 8:45 in the morning, while the tables are still being set up, you’ll be able to examine all your options and take your pick of whatever you like. Designer brands at 98 percent off. A comfy chair for your game room. Some new power tools to replace the ones you left out in the rain last spring.
If you show up 30 minutes before close on Sunday, on the other hand, all the good stuff (and even most of the “okay” stuff) will be long gone.
In the same way, the longer you wait to address your bunion, the fewer good options you’ll have for treatment. Bunions are a progressive deformity, which simply means they don’t get better over time. They only get worse.
If you seek our help when your bunion deformity is still small, and ideally not even causing pain or making it difficult to wear shoes, there’s a pretty good chance we can keep it that way for you—or at least significantly slow down the rate of progression.
If you wait until your bunion is huge and causing you a lot of pain every day, you might still have some conservative options available. But it’s much more likely you’ll ultimately need surgery, much sooner than you otherwise would.
Conservative Bunion Treatment Options
It’s important to clarify here that conservative bunion treatments will not make your bunion smaller. Only surgery can do that.
The point of these treatments is to stop the bunion from causing pain or restricting your activities, and to keep it from getting worse. If they do a satisfactory job of this, there’s really no pressing need for a surgical correction.
- Widen your shoes. Once the bunion starts taking up more horizontal space in the front of your shoe, you may need to switch to a wider pair that can accommodate the bunion without painful pressure or friction.
- Insist on good support. Shoe width isn’t the only thing that matters when it comes to footwear. Avoid high heels, shoes with narrow toe boxes, or shoes that have poor cushioning or arch support. These can all magnify the pressure and stress on the joint at the base of the big toe, which is not only painful but can accelerate the destabilization. We may further recommend orthotics to improve the way forces are balanced across your feet and protect the big toe joint even further.
- Padding the bunion. Even with wider shoes, a good bunion pad can further reduce the friction and pressure forces on the bump. These pads should be unmedicated.
Traditional pain management strategies, including over-the-counter anti-inflammatories or ice therapy, can help with temporary spikes in pain. If more aggressive pain relief measures are necessary, we can consider either cortisone injections or MLS laser therapy.
Bunion Surgery Options
Surgery is, to be sure, a last resort. But while we always prefer to avoid it if we can, that doesn’t mean you should be afraid of it! In fact, Dr. Wettstein specializes in an advanced form of bunion surgery known as the Lapiplasty procedure.
Although there are literally dozens of different procedures available for bunion surgery, most of these are open surgeries that involve cutting and repositioning bones along a two-dimensional plane only. This may alleviate discomfort in at least the short term and restore a more normal appearance, but significant portions of the foot remain fundamentally crooked, and your bunion is more likely to recur.
The problem is that a majority of bunions feature a metatarsal that is misaligned in three significant ways—outward, upward, and rotationally.
Lapiplasty is a minimally invasive procedure designed to fully restore the proper anatomical alignment of the metatarsal bone and stabilize the joint in the middle of the foot fundamentally responsible for the misalignment. It involves no bone cutting whatsoever!
If you’re interested in learning more, check out this short patient education video!
Lapiplasty is an excellent, advanced procedure that will likely be our first choice for most of our patients who require bunion surgery, but it may not be appropriate in all circumstances. The determination of whether you’d be a good candidate for Lapiplasty, or if you’d be better served by a different type of bunion procedure, will only be made after we have a chance to fully evaluate your feet and your medical history.
Don’t Let A Bunion Limit Your Lifestyle
There’s no reason to put off seeing us about your bunion. If your bunion is not yet causing pain or interfering with your activities, don’t wait for it to start doing so before making an appointment! And if your bunion is already painful, don’t let fear of surgery keep you from getting the relief you deserve now.
You can request an appointment with our team in either Twin Falls or Burley by calling (208) 731-6321, or reaching out to us online.