If you have pain in the joint of your big toe from arthritis, a bunion, or another condition, your podiatrist may recommend foot surgery if other types of treatment don't help with pain relief. Joint pain in your big toe can be unbearable at times since you need to bear your full weight on your feet when you walk. When the joint in your toe is inflamed and painful, you might not even tolerate wearing shoes. You might not be able to work or go about your usual daily activities. In that case, joint fusion surgery could be a good option. Here's an overview of the procedure.
The Purpose Of Joint Fusion Surgery
During a joint fusion operation, the doctor removes the damaged joint in your toe. All of the cartilage in the joint may be removed or just part of it. This allows the bones on both sides of the joint to meet and fuse together. With the joint gone, you won't be able to bend your toe any longer, but the pain should be eliminated.
Your Bones Are Joined With Screws
A toe fusion operation is often an outpatient surgery. You may have general anesthesia so you sleep throughout the procedure. The doctor makes an incision on your toe and then scrapes away all the damaged tissue around the joint. Healthy cartilage is also removed if necessary so the bones on each side of the joint can be lined up and attached with screws or a metal plate. Once the bones have been attached and stabilized, your toe is closed with stitches. Your toe and foot will be bandaged, and you may have your foot put in a cast or surgical shoe.
Recovery Might Take Several Weeks
While the initial phase of the recovery should be fairly rapid, a complete recovery will probably take several months. Your podiatrist may want you to wear the surgical boot for a few weeks. The boot provides stability for your foot so you can walk, but it is wide enough that it doesn't put any pressure on your toe. You may not be able to wear your usual shoes for a couple of months. You'll have several appointments with your podiatrist during your recovery, and the doctor will let you know when you can bear weight on your foot, wear normal shoes, go back to work, and resume sports activities.
You'll probably need to have physical therapy sessions so you can start walking as soon as possible to speed healing and avoid complications from the surgery. Although a complete recovery can take a long time, you should notice relief from your pain soon after the operation. It takes time for the swelling to go down after the surgery and for your bones to mend. Plus, you'll need to learn how to walk and balance yourself with a toe that no longer bends.