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Should I Have Bunion Surgery?

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At my first few jobs, working with the public, I was expected to wear dress shoes, which very often had narrow toes and high heels. (Thank goodness I became a self-employed writer, and could trade my pumps for supportive running shoes.)

If you’re genetically susceptible, that’s the very type of footwear that can contribute to the development of an often painful foot problem known as a bunion.

What happens is this: over time, the top of the big toe drifts towards the second toe, and the joint at its base begins bulging outwards. This lump is called a bunion. (Note: the story erroneously states that bunion is Latin for ‘turnip. The word actually seems to have evolved from an old French word meaning ‘bump on the head.’) 

As you might imagine, when your foot changes shape in this way, it can become more difficult to find shoes that don’t rub or squeeze the misshapen joint.

As a result of the abnormal alignment of the bones, the joint where the toe meets the forefoot ends up bearing a good deal more weight, which can cause pain, particularly during activities like walking. 

Foot care professionals can recommend a number of non-invasive strategies — including shoe inserts that reposition the foot — that can eliminate, or at least substantially decrease this discomfort. (If done early enough, they often can also slow the progression of a bunion.) 

However, if these don’t offer sufficient relief, some people may want to consider surgery to put the toe back into the correct position.

In this ‘Your Health Questions’ column that was originally published in the March 2019 issue of Good Times magazine, I go though some of the factors to consider when you’re contemplating whether to have such an operation: ‘Should I Have Bunion Surgery?’

My heartfelt thanks to the interviewees who so kindly shared their time and expertise:



American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons

Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation

Canadian Podiatric Medical Association

Photo by Lisa Fotios Courtesy of Pexels