You may not have any pain from your bunion when it first forms, but you’re reminded it’s there every time you consider going barefoot or wearing sandals in public. If it hurts, your big toe may feel painful or swollen or you may develop irritated skin over the protrusion.
A bunion appears as a large bump that sticks out of the side of your foot at the base of your big toe. It forms when your big toe begins to gradually lean toward your smaller toes. The change in position causes the base of the big toe to push outward and lean against the first metatarsal bone of your foot, located directly behind your big toe.
The bunion forms at the metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint where your big toe meets your foot and your toe bends when you walk. However, when a bunion forms, your weight lands on the bunion instead of your toe, which causes pain.
Several types of treatments can offer relief from bunions. Podiatrist Ian R. Hersh, DPM, FACFAS, of Ani Medical Group in Hazlet and Old Bridge, New Jersey, has the expertise necessary to determine the best bunion treatment for your condition. Dr. Hersch has extensive experience using different bunion therapies to improve movement and appearance.
Depending on the location and condition of your bunions, you may benefit from one or more of the following treatments:
Change your shoes
Changing your shoes may provide immediate relief of bunion pain. Switching to shoes that have a wide and deep toe box will help avoid friction between your bunion and the side of your foot.
You also should avoid shoes with heels higher than two inches. Shoes with higher heels can put your foot in an unnatural position by forcing your toes forward into a narrow space that can irritate your bunion. Because of their design, high heels can also put you at a higher risk of getting bunions if you don’t have them.
However, footwear doesn’t cause bunions. Bunions tend to form in feet that are more prone to their development. You’re more likely to get bunions if you’ve inherited an abnormal foot structure that includes low arches, flat feet, or loose joints and tendons. You’re also more prone to bunions if you stand for long periods of time or have arthritis symptoms in your feet.
Use pain-relieving treatments
Depending on your condition, one or more of the following pain-relieving treatments may help your bunion:
- Moleskin or a gel-filled pad on your bunion
- Shoe inserts or taping that corrects the position of your foot
- A nighttime splint to hold your toe straight
- Ice packs or warm soaks
- aspirin or ibuprofen (NSAIDs)
- Whirlpool, ultrasound, or massage
- Cortisone injections
Practice prescribed exercises
Exercises that strengthen foot muscles can help reduce discomfort and improve pain-free walking. Some common exercises include the following:
- Towel curls: Practice picking up a small towel using your toes.
- Marble pickup: Spread marbles on the ground, then pick each one up individually with your toes and drop it into a bowl.
- Golf ball roll: While sitting, roll a golf ball under your arch for two minutes.
Remove your bunions with surgery
If conservative nonsurgical treatments don’t work, you may benefit from bunion surgery. While bunion surgery involves several different approaches, most include a bunionectomy, or removal of the part of your bone that protrudes.
Bunion surgery may or may not involve a realignment of your big toe joint to its normal position. In some bunion surgeries, an artificial joint or implant corrects your damaged joint.
To heal, you must avoid weight on your affected foot for six to eight weeks, then progress to partial weight bearing in a special shoe or boot. Depending on the type of surgery performed and the size of the affected area, your recovery may take from six weeks to six months.
While it’s a long process, bunion surgery typically delivers relief and a more normal looking toe. You’re also likely to have better mobility after you fully heal.
If you’re living with bunions, it’s important to get expert care as early as possible. Schedule an appointment online or call either of our two convenient locations today to find out your options for bunion treatment.