Keyhole surgery and foot flexing banish bunion pain

Spare a thought for our sore-footed New York brothers and sisters who have had to wait until this month to obtain cutting-edge surgical relief for bunions and hammer toes.

A few weeks ago, top US clinic Mount Sinai announced it would become the first New York state hospital to offer percutaneous foot surgery. This minimally-invasive operation produces fewer scars, less pain and quicker recovery than traditional surgery to correct bunion deformities.

Fortunately, in Australia we are steps ahead as the revolutionary operation has been available here for a while.

University of Sydney graduate and orthopaedic surgeon Peter Lam pioneered the keyhole procedure Down Under to correct the hallux valgus, as the condition is known in medicine. This surgery can have patients back home the day after the operation and on their feet within weeks.

A joint study by Melbourne’s La Trobe University and the UK’s Keele University found that more than a third of people aged over 56 years had bunions, and women were more likely to develop them.

The researchers examined 2830 people and identified five levels of severity in the deformity. The most severe corresponded to a 60-degree deviation of the big toe.

Worryingly, the study also revealed that pain and hampered mobility were not the only effects sufferers were having to endure. Participants in the study said their achy feet damaged their overall quality of life.

In the meantime, if you are not ready for surgery just yet, you can strengthen the muscles in your feet to ease the pain of a wandering big toe.

New York College of Podiatric Medicine’s Assistant Professor Khurram Khan recommends these exercises to strengthen your feet:

  • Toe stretches: point your toes straight ahead for five seconds and then curl them under for another five, repeating 10 times
  • Flexing and contracting: press your toes against a hard surface, such as a wall. Hold the position for 10 seconds and repeat three times. Then flex your toes in the opposite direction and hold for 10 seconds, repeating three times
  • Stretching your big toe: Gently pull your big toe into proper alignment and hold this position for 10 seconds, repeating three times
  • Ball roll: Place a golf ball on the floor and roll it around under your foot for two minutes
  • Picking up marbles: Place 20 marbles on the floor in front of you and use your foot to pick the marbles up one by one and place them in a bowl. Alternatively, you can place a towel on the floor and try to grip and lift it with your foot.

Written by Olga Galacho

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