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How to Make Ingrown Toenail Surgery Less Painful

Updated on October 4, 2017
Dreamworker profile image

Dreamworker has spent years studying and dealing successfully with a number of health issues.

The thought of having painful ingrown toenail surgery drives people to do whatever they can to avoid it.

Unfortunately, people who try to avoid standard methods of dealing with this problem often do things that make their situations worse.

I am not a doctor, but I have been dealing with my own ingrown toenail problems for years. I also have learned that there are things you can do to make this procedure easier and less painful.

Here is my story.

Ingrown toenail surgery does not always have to be as painful as it may seem.
Ingrown toenail surgery does not always have to be as painful as it may seem. | Source

The Decision

I've had ingrown toenail problems for several years.

After seeing numerous podiatrists and trying various home remedies, I finally came to the conclusion that it was time to have partial toenail removal.

I worried about the potential for infection, and also about having the painful numbing shots.

All of the doctors said they'd be able to deal with infections, but when I asked them if they could knock me out for the procedure, they said insurance would not cover the costs.

Since, things had gotten to a point where I knew I was going to have to get those nails partially removed, I really felt like I had no options and would just have to "grin and bear it".

Doctor's opinions about how to treat ingrown toenails vary, but some simply tell patients what they think they want to hear and do not permanently resolve their issues.
Doctor's opinions about how to treat ingrown toenails vary, but some simply tell patients what they think they want to hear and do not permanently resolve their issues. | Source

Research Helped

Before I “jumped in”, I decided it would be a good idea to do some research so that I could analyze the situation.

I began watching YouTube videos that people who had the surgery posted and began to see a pattern.

Some people really suffered, while others seemed to do pretty well.

Finally, it donned on me that the people who suffered the most were the ones who had let their problem go too far.

Their toes were already swollen, hot, red and infected by the time they sought professional help, so of course the shots would be excruciating.

Furthermore, they took nothing ahead of time to protect them from pain.

I also noticed that some of the doctors used techniques that reduced pain, while others did not.

Those who used

  • smaller needles,
  • numbing spray foam and
  • stronger medications

made taking the shots much easier for patients.

Podiatrist Number 1

For my first excision, I made sure I had no infection, that my toes were clean and that I took a pain pill before the procedure.

However, I was unhappy with the doctor because he did not use the numbing spray and did not use the acid which would have prevented the toenails from growing back.

He gave me three shots in each toe. Each lasted about 15 second, unlike the ones I saw on YouTube that went on for as long as a minute.

  1. The first one did hurt, but it was nowhere near as bad as I thought it would be.
  2. The second hurt very little.
  3. He let those two shots numb my toes before he gave me the third one, and because of this, I didn’t feel the third one at all.

The doc removed a small strip of nail from each side of each big toe in less than 5 minutes, sterilized and wrapped the toes and that was it!

I felt absolutely nothing while he was working.

He told me to soak the feet in peroxide daily, shower regularly, keep toes dry and cover the them with band aids.

However, six months later, my ingrown toenails returned with a vengeance, and they also got infected!

It was time to find a different doctor!

Doctor Number 1

Before going to the second podiatrist, I paid a visit to my family doctor because I knew the surgery would not be as effective if infection was present.

She put me on a 14 day dose of an oral antibiotic which cleared up the infection, so I was then able to proceed with podiatrist number 2.

Podiatrist 2

The second doctor used acids as per my request.

He used the numbing spray and also gave me three shots in each toe. I later learned that ad he used the spray correctly, the shots would have been much less painful.

His after care directions consisted of showering regularly, soaking daily in Epsom Salts and water, keeping toes dry, using a topical antibiotic and keeping toes covered with band aids.

Four days after the procedure, both toes became infected.

I was out of town when this happened,

Since he did not return my phone calls, so I sought help from a local medical doctor.

Once the procedure is over, taking good care of your feet will be important.
Once the procedure is over, taking good care of your feet will be important. | Source

Doctor Number 2

Unfortunately, this doctor, nice as she was, gave me very bad advice.

Don't soak, do not cover with anything, keep toes dry and apply antibiotic ointment several times daily. When she saw that this wasn't working, she gave me a strong oral antibiotic.

The infection didn't get worse, but it didn't get better, either, and the oral antibiotic gave me all kinds of nasty side effects!

When she began talking about MRIs, wound specialists and IV antibiotic injections I realized it was time to go back home and find yet another podiatrist.

Podiatrist Number 3

My family doctor referred me to a podiatrist she knew to be good, and boy was he!

He told me that the right toe was no longer infected, but that the left one was still red and sore because the last podiatrist hadn't gotten all of the toenail out! There was a 1/4 inch piece of nail stuck just below the cuticle that was digging into my toe and irritating it.

In fact, that toe was not infected, either..just inflamed!

So, for the third time, I had "the shots". However, he had his tech give them to me. He did such a good job that I barely felt them.

Unlike the other doctors, he used a numbing foam which he kept spraying on the area while he gave me the shots. Also, the shots each lasted less than five seconds. I couldn't believe the difference in the pain levels from what the other podiatrists had done!

I felt nothing during the surgery.

After care consisted of soaking once each day in Epsom Salts and water, using a liquid topical antibiotic and covering loosely with a bandage.

Problem solved!

Save Yourself Some Problems

My best advice to anybody who has ingrown toenails is to

  • ask plenty of questions,
  • find a well qualified and experienced podiatrist,
  • protect your toes against infection,
  • pop a pain pill if you have one and
  • then have the procedure done.

Every podiatrist will boast that he has years of experience, but technique matters just as much as experience, and, as you've seen, some podiatrists perform less painful procedures than others.

I have horribly low pain tolerance, so don’t think I give this advice lightly.

Once my toes heal up, it is unlikely that I will have to deal with this issue again, but if I do I will know what to do and who to see and won't fear doing it.

You can reduce the pain of ingrown toenail surgery just as I did simply by following the advice I've given you here.

Good Luck!

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© 2017 Dreamworker

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  • Dreamworker profile image
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    Dreamworker 8 months ago

    Coffeequeen: Glad to be of service. I just had both of mine done a few days ago, and honestly, I am sorry I didn't do this years ago. What a relief it was to finally realize that all of the horror stories you hear do not necessarily apply to your own situation. Good luck!

  • Coffeequeeen profile image

    Louise Powles 8 months ago from Norfolk, England

    This has been most helpful, and lots of good advice here. I'm having problems with one of my toes, so reading this has been a big help, thankyou.