No matter what the health condition is, we hope that targeted treatment not only fixes the problem, but prevents it from coming back in the future. However, this doesn’t typically happen by accident. In today’s blog, we take a closer look at whether or not bunions can return after treatment, and what you can do to help prevent a recurrence.

Will My Bunions Come Back?

There’s no way to guarantee that a bunion will never return after treatment, but there are some things you can do to help reduce your risk of dealing with the problem again. We’ll touch on those tips in a bit, but for now we’re going to focus on why a bunion might return in the first place.

A bunion involves a deformity of the big toe joint that often develops as a result of abnormal pressure or acute injury to the big toe. The big toe joint doesn’t typically shift back to its pre-shifted location with conservative treatment, but this method of care can help prevent the condition from worsening. If these non-operative methods are pursued while the deformity is in an early stage and symptoms are mild or non-existent, this can help prevent the need for more invasive treatment. With that said, if you fall back into bad habits or start wearing ill-fitting shoes again, your bunion could again become symptomatic or worsen.

Conservative care for mild or moderate bunion formation is preferred, because if we can help you heal without an operation, that is often the best method. Surgery is a big undertaking, even when performed on a minimally invasive basis, which is why we try to help patients find relief through conservative methods first. With that said, these non-operative methods can sometimes be less effective than surgery in terms of preventing recurrence. That’s because you’re naturally working to restrengthen the joint and its supporting structures as opposed to having it surgically reinforced. This just speaks to the importance of continuing your bunion prevention habits long after symptoms have reduced or absolved.

Surgical correction helps to address severe bunions by cutting and reshaping the joint, and by reinforcing the repositioned joint with surgical hardware. The procedure has a high rate of success, but that doesn’t mean you have free reign to treat the area as you please once recovery has run its course. The area is still delicate, even after it’s been surgically reinforced, so if you keep doing the same things that contributed to its formation in the first place, there’s at least a decent chance it will return.

Interestingly, previous research into bunion formation and recurrence has shown that the more severe the bunion is when it is surgically treated, the more likely it is to return. Again, this speaks to the importance of early intervention to prevent a much larger issue. Current estimates suggest that between 5-20% of patients will have their bunion return, but we work hard to help reduce this likelihood by using advanced techniques and by ensuring patients understand what we expect of them during their rehab to lessen their risk of recurrence.

The best thing you can do to prevent bunions from coming back is by wearing proper fitting shoes. Shoes that are too tight, those with a narrow toe box and high heels that put pressure on the front of your toes can all cause problems for your big toe joint. At a minimum, wear these shoes in moderation and strive to spend more time in a more comfortable pair of shoes. Toe spacers, anti-inflammatory medications and orthotic inserts are other conservative options that can be paired with proper shoe choice to help prevent a bunion from developing or returning.

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