Anatomy of the Foot
Before you have your foot surgery, it helps to understand how your foot works in supporting you and carrying you from place to place. Knowing how skin and bone heal following surgery can help you to better understand the importance of post-operative foot care during your recovery.
Ligaments are flexible bands of fiber joining bone to bone. The foot has over 100 ligaments. Joints form where two bones meet. The 33 complex joints in each foot permit flexibility. Bones form the basic supporting structure of your foot. There are 26 bones in each foot. Tendons are tough, fibrous cords that connect muscle to bones. Muscles help move the feet and toes. When a muscle contracts, it pulls on a tendon, which in turn moves the bone.
The Healing Process
All foot surgeries involve the skin, and in some cases, the bone inside must be cut as well. When you understand the healing process, you can help make your foot surgery a success.
Skin heals in phases. First, it grows together so the stitches can be removed. The scar may look slightly inflamed; some redness and swelling are normal. After about six months, the scar blends with the surrounding skin.
Bone also heals in phases. A bone-like "cement" forms, bridging the affected bone and allowing it to bear weight. Later, the extra bone is dissolved, and in about six months, the bone is back to normal strength.
A bunion is an enlargement of bone in the joint at the base of the big toe. Bunions are most often inherited. Tight shoes do not cause bunions, but they can aggravate them. There are several types of bunions and surgical treatments for each. Your surgery may be similar to some of the common examples listed.
A positional bunion develops when a bony growth on the side of the metatarsal bone enlarges the joint, forcing the joint capsule to stretch over it. As this growth enlarges, it pushes the big toe toward the others making the tendons on the inside tighten. This, in turn, forces the big toe further out of alignment. The bunion presses against the shoe, irritating the skin, and causing further pain.
Structural bunions occur when the angle between the first and second metatarsal bones increases to a point where it is greater than normal. The increase angle of the metatarsals makes the big toe bow toward the other toes. Sometimes bony growths may form. Irritation and swelling may often follow. The tendency toward developing this painful condition is usually inherited. A structural bunion becomes severe when the angle between the metatarsal bones of the first and second toes grows greater than the angle of a mild structural bunion. Again, a tendency toward developing this condition is usually inherited. The big toe bows toward the others, sometimes causing the second and third toes to buckle. Irritation, swelling and pain may increase when tight shoes are worn.
While not a true bunion, this condition is often associated with bunions. Bunions, left untreated, can increase wear and tear in the joint of the big toe, break down the cartilage, and pave the way for degenerative diseases such as arthritis. Pain and stiffness are symptoms of both.