Do you have bunions?

Do you have a bump on the side of your foot? Does that bump make it painful to walk in just about any kind of shoe? If so, you may have a bunion.

Known by doctors as hallux valgus, bunions form over a long period of time. The problem starts when the big toe bends toward the other toes. That causes the big toe to push on the bone that’s behind it (the first metatarsal bone). Eventually, a bunion forms.

When you have a bunion, your weight rests on it with every step. That pressure is the reason for the pain. The pain is usually worse when you wear shoes — especially shoes that are narrow and/or tight.


Why do bunions form?
Most people can thank their parents for their bunions. Researchers believe there’s a genetic tendency toward poor foot structure, which can lead to bunions.

But shoes also play a role. Women are more likely to get bunions than men. That’s because wearing shoes that are tight (particularly high heels) can force the bones of the feet into the wrong positions. Over time, this can create bunions.

What to do if you think you have a bunion
If you think you have a bunion, you’ll want to see a board certified podiatric foot and ankle surgeon. When you see a foot surgeon, he or she will exam and X-ray your foot. That X-ray will help determine if you have a bunion and if so, how bad it is. Depending on the severity of the bunion, the doctor may recommend surgical correction.

Non-surgical options for bunions
Bunions that aren’t very severe can sometimes be treated without surgery. Your doctor may recommend:
• Roomier or wider shoes
• Bunion pads or special arch supports
• Over-the-counter medicine like ibuprofen or acetaminophen
• Ice to relieve pain and reduce swelling

Do you need bunion surgery?
Some people need surgery for their bunions. (This is also called a bunionectomy.) In general, people who are candidates for bunion surgery have:
• Significant foot pain that limits their everyday activities, including walking and wearing regular shoes
• Inflammation and swelling of the big toe that doesn’t go away with rest or medication
• Deformity of the toes (the big toe has moved toward the smaller toes; sometimes the toes even cross over each other)
• Stiffness of the big toe (can’t bend and straighten it)
• Pain that isn’t relieved by nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen and naproxen

What to expect from bunion surgery
At Capital Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine in Des Moines, Iowa, Dr. Jill Frerichs and Dr. Michael Lee perform most bunion surgeries in a surgery center, on an outpatient basis. That means patients can go home the same day — without spending any time in the hospital.

After surgery, patients wear a medical “boot” for a few weeks. This boot, along with the surgical dressing, helps to keep the foot in the right position after surgery.

Patients can usually go back to work after a few days. Generally, recovery takes about five to eight weeks and includes one or two sessions of physical therapy.

Post bunion surgery

To schedule an evaluation
If you’d like to talk with Dr. Michael Lee or Dr. Jill Frerichs about your foot or ankle pain, call our office in the Des Moines area at 515-440-2676. Dr. Frerichs sees patients at our main office in Clive, as well as in Ankeny (Mercy North), Knoxville and Pella. Dr. Lee sees patients in Clive, Ankeny, Des Moines (Mercy South), and Indianola.

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