What it Means When Foot Surgery Becomes an Option
When it comes to potential treatments for a condition, some patients may think of the most extreme scenario first. For conditions such as bunions, hammertoes, and neuromas, the thought of jumping straight to surgery tends to be prevalent.
And this line of thinking is certainly not the patient’s fault. When a problem is causing long-term pain—and often with such obvious physical deformity—it can be reasonable to assume that corrective foot surgery is the only option that will have any significant effect.
However, this is not always the case—even with foot deformities.
We perform foot surgery at Associates in Podiatry, but only when it is necessary. Surgery is very rarely the first form of treatment we will recommend, and there is a reason for that.
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A Measured Approach to Foot Surgery
Surgery is considered a “last resort” because, unlike most other forms of treatment, it is inflicting trauma upon the body.
Of course, this trauma is being inflicted to provide for better ultimate outcomes, including relief of pain or restoration of mobility. If the benefits of the intended outcomes do not outweigh the initial harm of the surgery, what is the point of performing it?
Nonetheless, a surgical procedure frequently involves incisions, adjustments, and other work that requires time for the foot or ankle to naturally recover. Even after a full recovery and rehabilitation (if needed), the foot or ankle will never be quite the same as it was before trouble ever began.
For some patients, the demands of a surgery may be too great or provide too many risks to recommend it. But even if you are otherwise fully healthy and have no known obstacles to surgery, there may still be more accommodating alternatives.
Conservative Treatment Options
In many cases, conservative (aka non-surgical) treatment options can provide relief from pain, discomfort, and other problems associated with a number of conditions. If these treatment options are viable, they will almost always be suggested before the notion of surgery is brought to the table.
It is important to keep in mind that, even for deformities such as bunions and hammertoes, the primary goal is not returning the foot to its original structure. The primary goals are to:
- Relieve any pain the condition is causing.
- Restore mobility, or at the very least maintain it.
- Prevent the condition from becoming worse.
Surgical correction of a bunion, hammertoe, or neuroma may be a means of achieving these goals, especially in severe cases where the deformity is impeding movement or makes wearing shoes excruciating to even think about.
However, there are also many cases when conservative options can effectively treat these symptoms and help prevent progression without correcting the condition itself. And when all the above goals can be achieved through non-surgical measures, that’s always a win!
Certain forms of conservative treatment may include, but are not limited to:
- The use of custom orthotics to offload excess weight from vulnerable joints and other areas.
- Pads to cushion certain areas and/or protect them against friction (such as from rubbing against the inside of a shoe).
- Changes to footwear.
- Stretching and exercise regimens designed to strengthen the supporting elements of joints and improve range of motion.
- Advanced treatments such as MLS laser therapy or radiofrequency ablation (the latter of which can be particularly effective on neuromas).It is only when these types of therapies do not yield the results we need (or it is clear from the start that they would not be effective) that surgery falls under consideration.
In general, the earlier a condition is evaluated, identified, and treated, the more likely it is able to be handled effectively through conservative methods. But this does not mean that bunion you have had for two decades is a hopeless cause. There is still a relatively good chance that it too can be treated conservatively.
So What If Surgery is Being Considered?
If it does come to pass that surgery is under consideration, that of course does not mean you will be forced into a procedure.
First, you may have several options for surgery. Bunion surgery, for example, is not just one consistent procedure, but includes dozens of possible approaches.
We will be sure to discuss all the possibilities with you, including the pros and cons of each. The procedure itself must be considered, but so must anything you may need to do in preparation for it.
Preparing for your recovery period is also crucial, including any sort of rehabilitation that may be recommended. Not providing yourself enough time or not setting yourself up comfortably for a proper recovery can not only make you miserable, but significantly impede your healing time. In the worst case scenario, it can cause chronic problems.
Surgery is best conducted sooner than later, but it also should not be performed until you are fully ready for it. We are more than happy to help you determine and prepare for an optimal time.
Don’t Wait to Get the Treatment You Need
Whether conservative measures or surgical intervention is the best route for finding relief from a bunion, neuroma, hammertoe, or other problem, please do not hesitate to call us. The longer you wait to pursue a solution to a foot or ankle problem, the more difficult that solution can be to reach.
Our offices are ready to hear from you. Give us a call at:
- (908) 687-5757 for our Roselle Park office
- (609) 924-8333 for our Princeton office