As long as you’re in the hands of an experienced bunion surgeon. According to those who perform the most bunionectomies, 50% of patients operated on by an experienced bunion surgeon don’t feel any pain. The other 50% experience discomfort that is almost always controlled with oral pain medication. Extreme pain is rare.
The part of the myth that is based on some truth is that if you go to a surgeon who only dabbles in bunion surgery, they are not as proficient in performing bunion surgery. They may take longer to operate, which can result in more tissue trauma and swelling, and therefore more pain. An experienced bunion surgeon who has performed thousands of these surgeries will know which procedure is right for you and then perform it efficiently with a knowledge and comfort of exactly what he or she is doing. They will know exactly how to administer long-acting anesthetics. The operating time is shorter, so there’s less tissue trauma, less swelling, and less pain. For the most part, the amount of pain you experience, if any at all, directly correlates to the experience of the surgeon in correcting bunions.
During the first 72 hours of recovery, how your body metabolizes anesthesia–and therefore when the pain block wears off–will determine when you start to feel your foot, usually 12-36 hours after the operation. After that initial phase, pain is minimal if it exists at all.
The side effect that sometimes is overshadowed by surgery preparation and recovery, is the joy you will experience in having had bunion surgery, and seeing the results. After years of looking at your foot and feeling embarrassment or even shame, finally you will see your feet and feel something new–pride.