How Long After Bunion Surgery Can I Walk (And Why)?

Exact Answer: up to 6 weeks

Bunion surgeries are medical procedures that entail the removal of extra tissue growth around a bone or a joint. Also known as hallux valgus, bunions are one of the most common foot deformities experienced by a large number of people during the course of their lifetimes.

Bunions are usually located under the big toe and can be extremely painful and uncomfortable for the patient. Thus, activities like standing, walking, or running can be extremely painful for such patients. The surgery helps correct the deformity by mending the tendons and ligaments around it. The type of procedure adopted to eliminate the bunion will be hinged on its severity.

How Long After Bunion Surgery Can I Walk?

The bottom line with bunion surgeries is that the recovery period for each patient will be quite different from that of the others. The specific time frame of recovery for a patient will be contingent on factors like the age of the individual, the severity of the bunion, the invasiveness of the procedure, the existence of comorbidities, etc.

Generally, if one opts for minimally invasive bunion surgery, the patient is allowed to walk out of the surgical suite after the procedure is completed. You have to rest the foot in question for a few days and wear a postoperative shoe for a few weeks. However, the patient can walk immediately after the bunion surgery is over. Again this is only suitable for mild cases of bunions.

In case the bunions are much more severe and require a more invasive cleaning, the recovery time will be longer. This implies that walking after the procedure will be much delayed. Such patients have to stay off their feet for almost 6 weeks immediately after the surgery. Thus, it is impossible to walk after this procedure.

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The patient has to walk with crutches or wear a protective shoe for the next 6 months. Sometimes the foot of the patient may also be put into a cast to protect it. The extensive nature of the surgery necessitates these protocols.  

It is imperative to follow these post-surgical protocols properly in order to avoid any complications. Putting pressure on the affected foot too early will affect the efficacy of the procedure as well as make the foot prone to infections.

In Summary:

Severity of the BunionResumption of Walking
Mild BunionsImmediately after the surgery
Severe Bunions6 weeks

Why Do I Have To Wait So Long To Walk After Bunion Surgery?

There is a stipulated waiting time before a patient is allowed to walk again after a bunion surgery because putting pressure on the operated foot will invariably increase the stress and strain on the area. This will not only augment the pain in the region but will also make it a breeding ground for unwanted and harmful microbial growth.

After surgery, the foot needs time to heal and rest. This is especially true for an invasive bunion surgery where the bump is removed as well as the first metatarsal is repositioned. Sometimes bunion surgeries also require the fusion of a joint. This would entail the use of screws and plates. Healing after such an invasive and painful procedure will take time.

This is why doctors invariably insist on their patients taking some time off after the procedure. The pain and swelling alone will not let the patient use his or her foot immediately afterward.

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However, for mild bunions, a minimally invasive procedure does the work quite effectively. The minimal invasion helps in minimizing pain and thus, allows the patient to immediately regain his or her motor functions. Therefore, the individual is able to walk out of the doctor’s chamber and drive back home.

Here, the recovery period is invariably shorter. However, one must remember that the existence of comorbidities like diabetes can increase the recovery time. It may also cause the patient to remain off his foot for a longer duration of time. This is because conditions like diabetes slow down the healing processes of the body, thereby prolonging recovery.

Conclusion

Bunion surgeries are relatively simple procedures. However, most patients tend to refrain from opting for them because of the fear of being unable to use their feet for a while after the procedure is completed. The recovery time frames with bunion surgeries are quite variable and depend on the specific procedure one has opted for.

In the case of minimally invasive bunion surgeries, the patient can walk out of the room after the procedure. After the surgery, the foot must be rested for a few days and after this period the individual can go back to his or her regular routine. Alternatively, bunion surgeries for much more severe cases require the patients to be off the affected foot for almost 6 to 8 weeks.

References

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2328776/
  2. https://europepmc.org/article/med/6693566
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