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After My Foot (Bunion) Surgery

On February 10th, 2011 I had corrective surgery on the bunion of my left foot. Even though I’d had the same procedure performed on my right foot about ten years earlier, I thought that I might benefit from a refresher course on how best to manage on only one foot for several weeks. I scoured the internet in search of a first person account of the surgery but could find only general medical advice, so I decided to keep a diary of my own recovery while it was still fresh in my mind. It is possible that someone in a similar position might find my experiences useful.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, a bunion is an enlargement of the bone or tissue around the joint at the base of the big toe. The big toe may turn in to point toward the second toe, and in extreme cases, can even force it beneath the second toe. This can push the remaining toes out of place and cause even further discomfort. Bunions are most often caused by an inherited faulty mechanic structure of the foot. It is not the bunion itself that is inherited, but certain foot types that make a person prone to developing a bunion. (My older sister has bunions just as I do, but she had decided that she would rather go to her grave with deformed and painful feet than have the corrective surgery for fear of pain. This is from a woman who has given birth to two children – while I on the other hand refuse to have kids for the exact same reason. Different strokes for different folks I guess. )

My road to bunion surgery started over 15 years ago while I was in the Marine Corps. My 2nd year while serving in the Philippines I discovered that wearing combat boots had suddenly become very painful. Upon visiting the base medical clinic I was advised that I had bunions on both feet, with the right foot being worse off than the left. It was recommended that I have surgery on the right foot first, which at that time entailed exposing the enlarged joint and then filing it down to smooth out the bump. I had the surgery as advised, but had to revisit the subject five years later when the bump returned and the pain along with it.

But by this time the preferred procedure was not to drill the bump down (because as had been confirmed by me, they just grew back). Instead, the procedure of choice was now to cut the big toe bone and properly realign it, using a metal pin to hold it in place until the bone healed in its new position. The pin would then be removed after 6 weeks or so, leaving the foot healed and properly aligned, albeit slightly swollen and sore for a few weeks more.

So I had the “re-do” performed on my right foot about 10 years ago, and as of this date the bump never returned. Now, that the pain in the left foot has gotten to a point that it can no longer be ignored, the time to have that one done.

The last time that I had this outpatient surgery, the doctor put me to sleep and when I awoke it was all over. I had a half cast on the bottom of my foot held on by yards and yards of bandages. But this time, my doctor (whom I really like and respect a lot) says that he prefers to keep the patient totally awake, while using a local anesthesia. At first I was not keen on the idea of being totally awake while someone sawed my big toe in half, but when my doctor advised me that there would be less risk of complications from anesthesia as well as a shorter recovery period while in the hospital, I was willing to try it (as long as I couldn’t feel anything).

The first difference that I noticed upon arriving at the hospital was that they would not require me to undress and change into one of those surgical gowns that leave your butt hanging out. Apparently you only have to do that when using general anesthesia, and as I was only using a local I could keep on my comfy and warm sweats.

My doctor then gave me a Xanex (I guess to keep me from freaking out during surgery) and had even suggested that I to play some music from my cell phone to myself using headphones so that I wouldn’t have to listen to the sounds of snapping bone during surgery. (Good call Doc.) He then gave me five or six shots in my lower leg in order to numb it. I didn’t think it would work, but it did. I watched him attempt to tickle my foot, and I couldn’t even feel that anyone was touching me at all. As he had predicted, I felt absolutely nothing at all. About twenty minutes later it was all over and I emerged from surgery with five stitches in my foot as well as a metal pin to hold my big toe straight. That was the easy part.

As I live alone and had remembered from my first surgeries how difficult it was to get things done on one foot when you live alone, I decided to prepare this time. I cleaned my home really well, bought enough groceries to last me at least 2 weeks, and precooked a few meals. Also, as had I intended to move from my current home in 4 months anyway, I put all of my living room furniture in storage and moved my queen size bed downstairs into my living room. I know that sounds a little crazy, but I knew that I was going to catch hell trying to get up and down the stairs of my townhouse with a broken foot and no one there to help me but my two crazy cats. This turned out to be the wisest decision that I have made in a long time, because as I predicted, I was basically an invalid for the first week.

The hospital provided me with crutches, but let me tell you in case no one has ever mentioned this to you, crutches suck. My arm pits were sore from where the crutches rubbed against them, the palms of my hands were sore from me keeping death grip on the crutches , and I could only move 4 or 5 steps at a time before I had to catch my breath – believe me, they need to market them as a workout! I realized at day 3 after the surgery that I had forgotten to purchase cat litter, and the litter box was full. I used the crutches to get to my car, and then jumped into one of those drivable shopping carts once I arrived at the supermarket. I was able to refresh my supplies and even get them into the car with no problem, but getting them from the car into the house was a brainteaser. The 2 small plastic grocery bags I could carry with no problem, but the 20 pound plastic container of cat litter was another issue. I tried to put it on the ground and push it with my good foot as I crutched along, but I didn’t make much progress. Thank God that my neighbor with the noisy kids that I always complained to myself about pulled up right about then. She sent her little girl over to carry the cat litter to my door for me. I gave the girl 3 dollars, but that small gesture of kindness had actually been priceless to me at that moment.

My doctor had advised me that absolutely no weight should be put on that foot for at least a week, and believe me – it hurt so bad that putting it on the ground was the last thing that I wanted. But right around the 5th day after the surgery, the pain started to subside, and I found that I needed less pain medication. By the 7th day I could bear to put my put on the ground if I favored that foot and walked so that weight was placed only on the heel and outer side of my foot (avoiding using the big toe at all).

I am as of today at day 11 after the surgery and I am getting around pretty well, inside of my home anyway. I have an appointment with my doctor 4 days from now (exactly 2 weeks after the surgery) to have my stitches removed and to get the dressing changed. If all goes well I am scheduled to return to work on the following Monday, as I am out on 14 days paid disability leave until then. That will be the next test – getting around at work.

I will file part 2 of this series after I go back to work. Even I want to know how that turns out.


Bad feet on March 03, 2017:

Well im feeling pins and needles 2 weeks in and my toes look a whole shade darker.i didnt know the pins had to be removed so now im worried about that im the type of person who cant sit still so ive been on my foot to much. the doctor told me it looks great but i need to stay off it. Ill never do this again to much restrictions drives me nuts. Good luck everybody im tapping out on this first and last surgery in my life.

quescott (author) from Atlanta on February 22, 2017:

When I had my surgery done it was Springtime in Georgia so I could get away with some really pretty / decorated sandles that were similar to flip-flops in that the straps didn't run across or touch my wound area. I also purchased a flat pair of plain roomy shoes that were one size too big. The extra room helped, but the hard shoe rubbing across my scar still hurt. If all else fails something similar to sneakers with a cloth top will work until you heal up. Good luck!

Tracey on December 05, 2015:

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I had both my feet operated on 2 weeks ago for bilateral bunions which is not technically a bunion its just where the toe bones have moved away from rest of cluster giving the appearance of bunions. Ive had keyhole surgery and just recently had the 1 stitch out from each foot removed.

I Live alone and at 1st it was hardbto get my.balance but now doing ok. My biggest problem is involuntary toe spasms either just as I'm going to sleep or while im asleep which hurt like crazy and nake me cry out in pain I've got the pins in for a further 2 weeks. Anyone know why this is happening and ifbits due to kack of qater as i dont drink much


Gail on November 26, 2015:

I live alone and have no one ..and a small dog to care for. I am on disability also so not much money to pay anyone for help. My surgery is in 1 week and I am having my left foot done..Very worried...a bit teary eyed thinking about it.

JewelsRulez on April 10, 2015:

Wow, to bad this thread hasn't been updated in 2 years, I hope that, starting with my post, we can keep it on-going without long gaps.

I recently had my bunion surgery on my right foot, March 31, 2015~at 1230 EST....

Well, it wasn't just bunion surgery, it was repair of my 2nd toe too, I had a bunion and a hammer toe, I wish I could stop there. But..... I also had a very large Morton's neuroma.....

Sooooooo, I had 3, count them 3, surgeries at the same time.

I had the bunion for years, and was told that if it didn't hurt, leave it alone, so, I followed that mantra for nearly 30 years. I was also blessed with a very painful hammertoe after falling down my stairs 2 years ago and bashing my foot into the wall on my descent. Again, following the same mantra as with my bunion, if it doesn't hurt. Eventually my bunion did become painful at times, and the hammertoe too. Not mention that I was becoming limited on my choices for shoe apparel. Recently, I went to spend sometime up north with my daughter and grandchildren, while there, my right foot became so painful, that I could no longer ignore it. The pain I was experiencing had been going on for about 2.5 years, anytime I mentioned it to my doctor I was told it was neuropathy, and given a pill that was used to treat diabetic neuropathy. They didn't work of course, because I didn't have neuropathy. And I had an unsavory reaction to them. I did try to tell my doctor I didn't have neuropathy, but my claims fell on deaf ears.

Fast forward, once I started seeing a podiatrist and the neuroma was discovered, scheduling surgery was underway, and after talking with my podiatrist about performing the removal of my tumor, and Bunionectomy and hammertoe repair, it was agreed upon that we would kill three birds with one BIG stone. The recovery process and time were going to be the same, so why not?

The day of surgery was actually a great day, even though I was NPO from midnight the night before, and thirsty as heck.

I'm on day 10 of recovery, and still having good days and bad days.

More to come........

FlourishAnyway from USA on April 28, 2013:

I'm dying a little bit at the part about cuting your big toe in order to align it and only doing it under local anesthesia. I have to agree with your sister.

Catina Schneider on January 27, 2013:

I'm 4 years post bunion surgery and my feet still swell at times. They look great but are very sensitive. It feels like nerve pain. I now have neuromas in both feet. I can't run or walk a long time or I pay dearly. I miss wearing dress shoes or even flats. I got rid of bunions but I still have pain in other places on my feet now. I don't know what's worse. Good luck.

offroadfx4 on November 26, 2012:

I'm trying to wear five-finger shoes to keep my big toe off my other toe to avoid this surgery....I did it for 2 weeks already...not too need to be leather..not nylon or big toe will jump through the side to get out..

quescott (author) from Atlanta on March 31, 2012:

Honestly, I liimped slightly or favored the bad foot for about 3-4 months after the surgury, even thought the pin was already taken out. Mainly it was because my foot got tired after walking during the day and started to ache. Also because since my foot was still swollen my shoe was rubbing against the incision area (that was still a little sore) and irritated it. Glad to hear you found a comfortable shoe that doesn't irrite your incision area. Even with that, try not to walk too much unnecesarily . You will find that the muscles in your foot get tired quickly. Actually, my foot started cramping a lot after my surgery, probably because I was favoring my foot and holdindg the muscles too tightly or something.

Naomi on March 29, 2012:

Thanks for posting this 2-part series. It is very informative, just wish I'd found it before surgery. I've had very little pain, but am worried my Dr is allowing too much too soon. All information I can find is no weight on the foot for at lwast 6 wks & my dr released me to wear normal shoes and apply weight "as I felt" . My pin is permanent,so 2 wks out, NO WAY a regular shoe is going on this foot! It's still too swollen for one things, and the area over the pin is SO tender. I did find a new type of CROCS sandle that the 2 bands hit your foot in the perfect area for where we are healing. It leaves that area completely untouched,so no pain form the pressure. I have inserts for my shoes,but I would seriously hurt anyone that tried to put an athletic shoe on that foot right now!

Again, thanks for posting has helped me feel more "normal"(if possible).

How long was it before you found you could walk normally without favoring one foot over the other?

quescott (author) from Atlanta on February 21, 2012:

Good luck at the doctors tomorrow! Dont worry too much about not being able to move your toes yet, I couldn't move mine much either for a while because of the swelling and the fact that I still had a metal pin in my foot. After the stiches came out the swelling started to go down and I regained a lot of movement. And then when I had the pin removed it got even better. My doctor told me to try to exercise my foot at home by wiggling my toes whenever I was just sitting in bed or something. I still do that sometime,and it definitely helps.

In answer to your question, I drive everywhere I go and I work in an office so I sit at a desk all day (no pressure on my foot). It has been about a year now since my surgery, and besides a little stiffness in my foot when I stand or walk too much or try to wear high heel shoes, I am back to normal. :)

My advice would just be for you to get some really comforabe soft shoes (like athletic shoes), maybe even some that are a size or so too big to allow for the swelling in your foot.

Let me know how things turn out for you tomorrow :)

marzena on February 21, 2012:

hello thank u for sharing your story i found it very clear and interesting ,,im from poland and lived in uk over 5 yrs now ,,i had operation on both fee tabout 2,5 weeks ago ,,im off to get my dressings changed tomorrow and im very nervouse what im goinna see ! ???im not sure if i can move my toes cos teh yget a bit numb so i try littl movement and then its a lot better ,,doctor haven't told my much what i shoud do at home after op ,that's why im so worried, ,im looking forward for your next letter !!!!!!!!!looks like u going back to work preety fast after op ,do u mind if i ask what job do u do ??? cos im riding horses and as u can imagine it will def,take longer till i get back to work,,i m also wondering when i can start walking .. hope i will get some answers tomorrow when i get to my clinic( at york) thanx

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