Is Ingrown Toenail Surgery Painful?

February 16, 2024

Dealing with an ingrown toenail can be a painful and frustrating experience, with many people opting to have ingrown toenail surgery to find lasting relief. But is ingrown toenail surgery painful? And if it is, is it really worth the discomfort?

Do You Really Need Ingrown Toenail Surgery?

The first thing you must consider when considering ingrown toenail surgery and any pain that may come with it is whether ingrown nail surgery is right for you – or not. Ingrown toenails occur when the edge of the toenail grows into the surrounding skin, leading to pain, inflammation, and creates the potential for an infection to develop. While mild cases can often be managed with conservative treatments like soaking, proper nail care and trimming the nail back slightly, more severe or recurrent ingrown toenails may require nail surgery. 

If you’re experiencing ingrown toenails on a regular basis (such as several times over the space of a few years), we would classify this as “chronic” ingrown toenails. For these recurring ingrown nails, surgery offers a more permanent solution that can save you much hassle and pain in the future by not having the ingrown nail recur. Having toenail deformities, such as excessively curved nails or thickened nails, are another clinical indication that surgery may offer you great benefits, as it is more likely that you will continue to suffer with the problem. For those who have repeatedly tried to stay on top of their nail care and trimming their nails back but are still battling an ingrown toenail, surgery can also be very successful in finally resolving the problem – and helping to keep it gone for good. 

Ingrown Toenail Surgery Options

There are several surgical options available for treating ingrown toenails, each tailored to the severity and extent of the condition. The three primary surgical procedures include:

Partial Nail Avulsion

A partial nail avulsion (PNA) is the most common surgical procedure for ingrown toenails and is often the first line of treatment. During this procedure, your podiatrist administers a local anaesthetic to numb the toe, to optimise your comfort throughout the surgery. Once the toe is numb, they will carefully trim and remove the small ingrown portion of the nail, relieving pressure on the surrounding skin. The podiatrist may also perform a meticulous cleaning of the affected area to reduce the risk of infection. Partial nail avulsion typically provides immediate relief from pain and discomfort, and most patients can resume normal activities shortly after the procedure.

Partial Nail Avulsion With Chemical Matrixectomy

In cases where ingrown toenails are recurrent or severe, a partial nail avulsion with chemical matrixectomy may be recommended. This procedure involves removing the ingrown portion of the nail (detailed above) as well as applying a chemical agent to the nail matrix (base) to prevent regrowth of the ingrown edge. By destroying the nail matrix cells responsible for nail growth, this technique aims to permanently resolve the issue of ingrown toenails. While a partial nail avulsion with chemical matrixectomy may result in a slightly longer recovery period compared to standard partial nail avulsion, it also offers a higher likelihood of preventing recurrence and providing lasting relief, and is the most commonly performed procedure in our clinic.

Total Nail Avulsion

A total nail avulsion is reserved for more complex cases of ingrown toenails or situations where conservative treatments have been ineffective. During this procedure, the entire nail, including the ingrown portion, is removed from the nail bed. While total nail avulsion offers a definitive solution to ingrown toenails, it also requires a longer recovery period compared to partial nail avulsion. Patients may experience temporary discomfort and swelling following the procedure, but with proper care and follow-up, the nail typically regrows over time – typically in a way that does not encourage the nail to regrow into the skin. Total nail avulsion may be recommended in cases of severe nail deformities (like thickened, infected nails), chronic ingrown toenails, or when other surgical options have failed to provide adequate relief.

Is Ingrown Toenail Surgery Painful?

Now to answer the burning question on many patients’ minds: whether ingrown toenail surgery is painful. The answer is that it doesn’t have to be. As we use local anaesthesia, our patients typically experience minimal discomfort during the procedure. Following the surgery, any residual pain can be managed with over-the-counter pain medications (like panadol), and our podiatrists will closely monitor you for both healing progress and pain levels. Your exact level of pain during your recovery will vary based on the kind of procedure you had, as well as how complicated or severe the ingrown nail was. If it puts your mind at ease, partial nail avulsions are performed on patients of all ages, including children, and the pain is very manageable for most.

Podiatrists Are The Experts In Ingrown Nail Surgery

When it comes to ingrown toenail surgery, you can feel confident knowing that podiatrists are highly trained professionals with the expertise and the right tools to perform ingrown toenail surgeries safely and effectively. With their specialised knowledge of foot anatomy and surgical techniques, podiatrists can address ingrown toenails with precision and care, providing patients with lasting relief and improved foot health. If you’re dealing with the discomfort of an ingrown toenail, seeking the expertise of a podiatrist can help you find relief and get back on your feet pain-free.