The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

Don’t Trust TV Advice Regarding Bunions, Caution NYC Podiatrists

Posted by on Friday, March 20th, 2015

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Wouldn’t it be great if you could get a crash course on everything you need to know about bunions on your lunch break? Wish as you may, but don’t look to television for the answers to your most pressing questions. A recent Canadian study found that 4 in 10 assertions made on popular medical television programs lack any medical basis whatsoever. Only one-third of the suggestions from the show can be traced back to published research. Furthermore, 11% of the advice is actually contrary to the advice doctors working in their respective fields would give.

Take a hard look at medical advice on TV–it may be dated, or just plain inaccurate. Image Source: Wikimedia.org

Top Inaccuracies About Bunions From Medical TV Programs

Here are a few of the factual inaccuracies about bunions we’ve seen on medical TV programs that we’d like to address:

1. Patients should avoid bunion surgery. 

On one television program, patients were advised to avoid bunion surgery altogether, because of one well-known judge’s painful recovery and immobility issues following surgery. It is true that surgery should be used as a last resort. We don’t recommend bunion removal strictly for cosmetic reasons to have “designer feet.” Rather, bunionectomies are done in cases of severe pain and limited mobility, so for the right patient (and particularly one who has not responded to conventional treatments), having bunion surgery significantly improves quality of life.

2. Bunion surgery is done using chisels, crowbars, and hammers.

It may have seemed like a funny idea at the time to include these images along with a segment on bunion surgery, but as board-certified podiatric surgeons with decades of experience in the bank, you can imagine our horror at seeing images of a large Styrofoam foot being combated by chisels, crowbars, and hammers. There are more than one hundred procedures a skilled surgeon may choose, depending on a person’s individual anatomy, but we can assure you, none of them use these rudimentary tools. As fellow podiatrist Patrick DeHeer pointed out, TV hosts often point to the wrong body parts while attempting to explain the surgery to viewers and use animations that show the wrong type of bunionectomy–which can be very misleading.

3. Bunion surgery is a walk in the park. 

On the flip side of the coin, we have seen other TV segments that make bunion surgery look like a breeze. The TightRope procedure, they say, “allows patients to walk out of the operating room cast-free and offers a much shorter recovery time than traditional surgeries.” Even with the best bunion procedures, you will need to elevate and protect your foot for the first two weeks, and it can be six weeks before you’re back up to speed again. This recovery can be challenging–not just physically, but mentally as well. Like we said, for some patients, it’s really a better alternative to the terrible pain or mobility issues they’re faced with, but if you have a small bump, we can go over many ways you can prevent it from worsening, and treat it conventionally.

The Bottom Line On Bunions:

We appreciate the work that TV hosts have done to encourage patients to engage in a dialogue with their doctors and ask the tough questions about their medical conditions. We respect these individuals as trained medical professionals. However, it is important to keep in mind that there are specialists for a reason, and a general practitioner or someone board-certified in general surgery will not explain issues affecting the feet as well as a podiatrist or board-certified podiatric surgeon. No TV show (or blog, for that matter!) can effectively substitute the opinion of an expert and experienced foot and bunion surgeon at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine.

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If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.