I had a Cheilectomy in March 2019. If you don’t know what that is, it’s a procedure for people with an arthritic big toe that removes a bone spur that forms behind your big toe (common to people with arthritis in the big toe).
I want to post here about this because there’s a lot of fairly bad information out there regarding Cheilectomy recovery, and it doesn’t really tell the entire story.
To start, almost everything you read about the procedure says it’s “easy” or “minor”. Then, they essentially say “you’ll be in a boot for a week or two, then you’ll have some swelling for a few weeks to a few months“. Sounds simple enough, right? Plus, there are a few blogs where the people writing them say things like “week 5 – back to running”… which is really disheartening when I’m all “week 5 – is the limp ever going to get better?”
So anyway, here’s my condensed experience with Cheilectomy Recovery:
Get out of surgery, and go right to the recliner. Foot “up” for several days. Need a cane to hobble around. Showering with the protector on is a pain in the ass. Your foot should be “up” 23 out of 24 hours the first week, and then up as much as possible after that. You will need help – even getting a glass of water is an ordeal.
That said, recovery is impressive during the first three weeks. You go from needing a cane for a week to needing no cane to hobbling around pretty good. Your bandage will come off, and at the end of three weeks, you’ll probably be ditching the protective boot and looking to get back into a “normal” shoe (albeit a wide one). You will feel like complete recovery is right around the corner.
Hints for post-protective sandal: Buy some wide, stretchy diabetic socks (NOT tight compression socks). Wide, stretchy socks give your swollen foot more room. And you’ll probably need wide shoes. Sketchers wide fit rule!
This is a rough time, because you will start doubting your recovery. What seemed like speedy healing slows down considerably. All of a sudden, your scar can seem to be getting worse, not better. You accidentally bend the toe up while walking, and you want to jump through the roof. It’s three weeks of “two steps forward, one and one-half steps back”. One day it feels decent, then the next, really painful.
Not only the above, but your back, knees, and hips start to hurt because your gait is so “off”. You look online, and see others in blogs seemingly WAY ahead of you. Youtube videos of Cheilectomy recovery exercises lead you to practice sadistic self-abuse.
During weeks 4-6, you will wonder whether this was worth doing.
Trust me, I WISH someone had this week 4-6 info online (it is in some of the other blogs, but you have to read the comments more). Seeing clearly that weeks 4-6 are rather difficult would have made me feel a lot better. This is part of the reason I’m writing this.
Seemingly without warning, you start going “3 steps forward, and a half a step back”. Your scar is clearly healing nicely now. You’re not totally out of the woods, but you are starting to feel confident that yes, you will completely recover. It still swells, but it’s starting to seem like that’s on and off.
Ok, recovery is no longer in doubt. You can walk with barely any limp. Your back and hips start feeling better. If you exercised previously (run / walk / etc), you can start going back on a regular basis. It hurts a little in the morning and evening, but you swear you “forget” about the toe for hours at a time. On and off swelling still, but not a big deal at all.
Things are good. It still hurts a little from time to time, there’s still a slight limp, but things are progressing. You hop on the treadmill and do some brisk walking, then you overdo it a little and the toe hurts a lot that night. But, and this is still progress, you can massage it pretty darn good without pain, something you couldn’t do a few weeks ago.