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When is Surgery the Right Treatment?

March 28, 2016

Many feet and ankle conditions, though painful, are not debilitating. As a result, many people choose to live with pain in their feet and ankles for months or years. If you have pain in your feet and ankles, being able to recognize the severity of your condition and knowing what to do about it can help you seek the right treatment for your problem.


A bunion is a bony bump that forms on the side of the foot, near the base of the big toe. Bunions can form for hereditary reasons or as a result of wearing the wrong shoes. Typical treatments for bunions include: wearing wide shoes, wearing thick socks, icing the area, wearing gel-filled pads and losing any extra weight.

Bunions are not treated with surgery unless they’re very painful and cannot be controlled by other means. Work with your doctor to alleviate your symptoms. If conventional tactics are ineffective, your doctor will let you know when it’s time for surgery.


A hammertoe is a condition that causes the toe to become deformed in such a way that the top of the toe becomes bent upward. Hammertoes are painful because of the way they rub the top of the shoe when the patient walks.

Special footwear is the first line of defense against hammertoes, like inserts in shoes that prevent the toe from rubbing. Like bunions, hammertoes are only treated with surgery when nothing else will work. Before turning to surgery, patients work carefully with their foot doctors to relieve symptoms by other means.

Heel Spur

A heel spur is a bony outgrowth on the heel of the foot. Heel spurs are typically treated with over the counter medications, stretches and exercises, physical therapy, taping of the heel and ankle, and injections. Patients try these treatments for up to nine months or a year before surgery becomes a likely possibility. Like the other conditions described above, surgery is considered a last resort.

Ultimately, the only way to know for sure if surgery is the best treatment for your foot or ankle condition is to consult with an experienced and knowledgeable foot doctor. Your foot doctor will know all the most modern methods and least invasive forms of treatment, and will work with you to relieve your pain without surgery. If surgery becomes a necessity, your doctor will let you know right away, so you can walk comfortably once again.

If you live in the Anchorage area, Dr. Heather Kaufman at Anchorage Foot and Ankle Clinic will be happy to work with you to relieve your foot pain and heighten your comfort. To find out more, contact us at (907) 344-2155 to make an appointment.


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