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How Long Does It Take To Correct My Bunion?

One of the most common questions regarding the use of Foot Mobilisation Therapy is “How long does it take for to work?” And as you might expect, the answer is: it depends.

There are many different factors that will influence an individual’s success with Mobilisation and Manipulation Therapy, and this article aims to highlight some of the most prominent. Most aspects will fall into one of two categories: Personal Factors, including the individual’s current foot health status and foot health goals.

Immediate Relief & Long-Term Impact:

With foot mobilisation therapy a typical success timeline might look like this:

- Immediate – 1 Month | Increased foot/ankle stability through improved structural alignment. Relief from minor aches and pains. Expect mild muscle/joint soreness as toes change position and dormant muscles become more active.

- 3 months – 1 Year| Improved toe dexterity/control and increased foot/toe muscle strength and volume. Relief from moderate aches and pains. Expect cycles of soreness and strength as muscles continue to build. Anticipate adding a shim to progressively reverse bunions.

- 6 months – 3 Years | Significant toe/foot strength gains and lasting architectural/aesthetic changes. Relief from significant aches and pains.

Personal Factors:

When it comes to estimating timelines for foot and toe rehab while using mobilisation therapy, we start by evaluating the current health status of the feet. It may seem obvious, but feet with more severe bunions, bunionnettes, and hammertoe deformations will face longer roads to recovery than feet starting out with less severe problems. A healthy foot ideally has the toe bones in a straight line with the foot bones (metatarsals)—so the greater the angulation between the toe and foot bones becomes, the more work that needs to be done to correct them.

Similarly, it’s also important to consider the individual’s foot health goals in determining a target endpoint. Most people simply want to reduce and eliminate pain, while others seek to develop strong and muscular feet, and yet some people desire mostly aesthetic changes. On a typical timeline, we first see improved stability through more optimal alignment, followed by strength gains as pain resolves. The aesthetics often take the longest and it’s not always possible to completely reverse foot and toe deformations back into a state of ideal foot alignment and posture.

Some other personal factors influencing success with mobilisation therapy are genetics, age, overall health. It’s important to note that bunions or other similar toe deformations are NOT hereditary. However, what is inherited is the make-up and properties of the musculoskeletal system that might predispose you to bunion formation. People with more lax ligaments, muscles, and fascia tend to have feet that more readily deform into the shape of unhealthy footwear (tapered toe box) and thus will require more effort and time to reverse.

Conversely, the foot of someone with more elastic soft tissues tends to more easily spring back into shape once removed from poorly shaped shoes. Beyond footwear choice and activity level, this is the main difference between why one person might develop bunions and another won’t.

Along the same line, the shape and size of bones are also inherited and there’s good research showing that gait can be inherited as well—both of these will certainly influence an individual’s potential for bunion formation.

As we age, our body’s ability to change and repair itself starts to slow down. This doesn’t mean that older and more experienced folks can’t make changes to their feet, just that the timeline is longer when compared to an adolescent or young adult. Overall health, including systemic diseases and body weight, also plays a role in determining success with toe separators. Autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and Marfan’s Syndrome and metabolic diseases like diabetes and gout will absolutely influence foot health, often making the route to recovery a little more challenging.

Performing additional foot health mobility and strength exercises will also improve chances of success. It’s important to remember that this process of realigning and strengthening the feet takes a lot of time, patience, effort, and dedication. As with any training program, there will be up and downs—it’s never a straight path. If you take on this journey, take pictures of your feet before because progress is incremental and we’re seeking an aggregation of marginal gains. By applying the information in the article to yourself, you can tip the scales of success in your favor.

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