Fitness: Got bunions? New techniques offer easier recovery

Bunions. I’ve lived with them so long, they have been the subject of many family jokes.

My kids and husband have relentlessly done imitations of my poor feet and the boney growth that protruded at the base of my big toe.

Not only were the bunions unsightly but they were painful.

Shoe shopping wasn’t about fashion but finding something that had enough toe room to keep the pain at a tolerable level. They usually weren’t fashionable. My choice was ugly and comfortable, or fashionable and so painful that I would end up going home early just to get my shoes off my feet!

My bunions also started causing intense pain while running. This year on Mother’s Day, I decided to go on a run to release some stress. I hadn’t done much running through the winter, and the distance of my planned run was much more aggressive than my ability level.

By the time I hobbled to my car, the pain in my foot was so bad I was sure I had broken something. The time had finally come to deal with my foot issue. I couldn’t avoid it any longer.

I had done research through the years about bunion surgery, but the horror stories of others who had surgery were so bad that I never even looked into it.

I didn’t have six weeks to be out of work while my foot healed.

I read several stories about people who said the pain after surgery was so intense they would never do it again, and some even said their feet were worse after surgery.

The horror stories gave me an excuse not to do anything, but that changed on Mother’s Day. Something had to be done!

I heard an advertisement on the radio about Dr. Neal Frankel with A Foot and Ankle Center who was performing a different technique in bunion surgery. It allowed patients to walk out of surgery and to be back at work in just a couple of days with minimal pain. That sounded like something I could get behind, but I was skeptical.

I met with Frankel on a Monday. He confirmed it was my bunion causing my running pain. To accommodate the lack of movement in my foot, I was running on my heels, which caused a heel spur.

I had arthritis in my toe, too, and if I didn’t do something about it, I would eventually need a joint replacement. Surgery was scheduled for the next week. Frankel would do surgery on my left foot first and a few weeks later he would tackle the right one.

My husband and I are planning to run the Naperville half marathon in November, and the plan Dr. Frankel had for me would still allow for us to continue with our training. It seemed too good to be true, but I was ready to take the surgery plunge to have healthy feet.

Just as Dr. Frankel promised, I walked out of the surgery center and returned to work two days later. I did keep my foot elevated and iced between clients, but there was no pain or swelling. I was in a boot for three weeks and then transitioned into my running shoe.

I had surgery on my right foot two-and-a-half weeks later with the same impressive results. As of Friday, I am wearing running shoes on both feet. I still have several weeks before I can do any impact exercise, but I went on a bike ride over the weekend and feel like I am in the final stages of my recovery.

If you are experiencing foot pain that is keeping you from enjoying life, whether that means exercising or wearing a fun shoe, I encourage you to find a doctor who can help you get your life back.

As I was recovering from surgery, one of my daughters made another comment about my “crazy” bunions. I reminded her with great joy that my feet look great now — and that bunions are hereditary!

Dr. Frankel has locations in Oak Brook, Chicago and Lincolnwood. If you are interested in scheduling a consultation with him, call 312-372-3117.

Carla Linder-Mayer grew up in Naperville. She and her husband, Mark, have been married since 1977 and raised their three children here. She owns Reality Fitness, 39 ½ W. Jefferson Ave. in Naperville. Contact her at 630-357-7087.

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