Experiencing excruciating pain in your big toe? It could be a bunion. in this post, you’ll learn what bunions are and what you need for bunion treatment at home.
What is a bunion?
A bunion is a deformation of the bone and joint at the base of the big toe caused by a swollen bursa sac and by the big toe angling inward.
This angling of the toe causes the head of the foot’s first metatarsal to become visible. The bones are then thrown out of alignment, thus causing a bunion or visible ‘bump’ to form.
Bunions worsen progressively over time, and although they begin with the big toe leaning inwards, the angle of the bones in the foot gradually changes to produce the characteristic bump, which becomes increasingly prominent.
When bunions and foot pain develop, this is usually an indicator that the growth is in the later stages when the deformation has become quite severe.
Treatment Options For bunions
Bunions are usually only removed if they cause significant pain or if the bone deformation is severe. When surgical and non-surgical options are available, most doctors will opt for non-surgical treatment first.
Here is a breakdown of standard treatments of both the non-surgical and surgical types.
Non-Surgical Bunion Treatments
Your doctor or podiatrist will most likely suggest non-surgical treatments first, such as:
- Bunion correctors and sleeves
- Shoes for Bunions
- Sandals for bunions
- Bunion exercises
- Home remedies for bunions
- Pain killers
Let’s take a look at these treatments in more detail:
1. Bunion Correctors
Bunion correctors and sleeves are an easy, accessible, and affordable way to reduce pain from this particular deformation.
Reusable adhesive gel or felt pads are readily found in pharmacies and regular department stores.
The other option is to purchase a bunion sleeve that slips over the big toe. Both options serve the same purpose: to protect your foot from friction and pressure and prevent the enlarged joint from rubbing against your shoe.
Interested in learning more? We know the feeling. Here’s an article we think you’ll like: Best Bunion Correctors.
2. Shoes for Bunions
Footwear is a common culprit when tracking down the cause of bunions.
When treating bunions, your doctor will question you about what type of shoe you generally wear and the frequency with which you are wearing constrictive shoes or high heels.
Wearing wide-toed shoes that fit well and give ample support to your arches will give your toes plenty of room and decrease pressure on your bunions. Heels that exceed a height of two inches should not be worn.
Want to dive deeper into the recommended shoes? Read more about: Shoes for Bunions (Men & Women)
3. Sandals for bunions
We can’t get enough sandals this summer season. There are just so many super cute and ultra-chic and trendy designs, shapes, colours and heights to choose from!
Sandals are our weakness, but fortunately, if you suffer from bunions, you cant jump right in into any pair.
But how do you know where to buy these sandals? And how do you know they are the right sandals for bunions? You can find the answers in this post: Best Sandals for Bunions (Men & Women)
4. How to Shrink Bunions Naturally
Relieving bunion pain at home is the goal of all bunion sufferers so they can avoid surgery.
Home remedies include over-the-counter bunion products to protect your bunion from rubbing against your shoe and toe stretchers and separators such as YogaToes, which ease pain by exercising the muscles in your foot.
Epsom salts and castor oil are home remedies for reducing pain that has been around for a long time.
Still curious? Click here to learn how to treat bunions at home. Check out How to Shrink Bunions Naturally.
5. Exercises for Bunions
Foot exercises help by slowing the progression of the bunion.
Toe stretches and foot exercises keep the joint between the foot and big toe mobile, strengthening the muscles controlling your big toe hence maintaining flexibility.
We understand that not everybody is able to exercise but if you can, this might be what you need.
Some of these exercises can be performed while seated and others while standing.
Curious as to which are the best exercises to strengthen your big toe? Find out more: The best bunion exercises.
6. Foot Ice Pack
If you have excruciating pain from your bunion cold compression is the best treatment for fast relief.
Use a bunion cold compress for 20 minutes at a time to reduce swelling and inflammation.
Avoid putting ice directly on your skin.
Remember to keep your foot elevated during icing to reduce swelling faster.
Let’s have a look at some of the best Ice packs for hot and cold therapy: Best foot ice packs.
7. Pain Killers
If you are experiencing intense discomfort from a bunion, then painkillers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help ease your pain. Using over-the-counter medication to dull the pain is not a long-term solution.
Be sure to follow all directions for use, and it is highly recommended that you see a professional for long-term care.
Surgical Bunion Treatments
Your doctor or podiatrist may turn to surgical options if your symptoms are severe and you fail to respond positively to the non-surgical options presented above.
While those options are designed to alleviate discomfort and prevent the symptoms from getting worse, the only way to get rid of a bunion is to remove it surgically.
Bunion surgery is usually not performed for cosmetic reasons alone, and while up to 85% of surgeries are successful, care must be taken because bunions can return after surgical intervention.
The style of shoe you wear may be permanently limited due to the risks associated with restrictive or heeled footwear.
Several factors need to be evaluated when considering this type of surgery:
• General health
• Occupation and lifestyle
• Severity of affliction
While surgery of this type is not considered ‘major’ surgery, the patient is carefully evaluated before going under the knife. Here is an expanded outline of the extenuating factors evaluated before surgical treatment for bunions will be granted:
What does a bunion look like?
What Tests are available to diagnose bunion?
Physical examination is usually all that is needed to identify a bunion. The doctor may ask the patient to move his big toe up and down to evaluate his range of motion. In some cases, the doctor may require an x-ray of the injured foot in order to determine how severe the problem is.
The doctor also usually asks questions about the types of shoes the patient wears and how frequently they are worn. Most doctors also ask if there is any family history of foot bunions and past foot injuries.
Who is at Risk of Getting Bunions?
Although anyone can develop bunions, studies have shown that women are ten times more likely to suffer from this condition, most likely because of constrictive footwear and the wearing of high heels. Check out the latest celebrities with bunions in 2022.
What Causes a Bunion?
The medical consensus is that if you have a genetic tendency towards bunions, bad choices in footwear – especially high heels – will make it very likely that you’ll develop bunions.
Like every other body trait, we inherit the good and the bad from our parents, and it’s no different for the characteristics of our feet.
In fact, some podiatric surgeons have performed a bunionectomy on multiple generations of feet in the same family.
We frequently inherit flat feet, low arches, abnormal bone structure, or loose ligaments and tendons. Any of these biomechanical variations may contribute to the development of bunions and the accompanying pain in your feet.
When feet with already weakened biomechanics like these are stuffed into pointy or high-heeled shoes too frequently, the stress placed on the front of the foot often results in a bunion.
Other contributing factors are an occupation that demands a lot of time on your feet; wearing shoes which do not support your feet correctly; hormonal changes and sudden weight gain like that experienced during pregnancy; and obesity.
Symptoms Of Bunions
Early Signs of a Bunion include:
- Early movement of the big toe towards the smaller toes
- Bump on the base joint of the big toe
- Deep dull “in the joint” pain
- Pain on top or side of the big toe from shoe pressure
What is A Tailor’s Bunion?
A tailor’s bunion is also a structural change in the foot. The result is a bony deformity at the 5th metatarsal phalangeal joint. The 5th metatarsal moves laterally, and the 5th toe moves medially, as seen below.
The movement results in a structural change and causes a bump to form on the outside of the foot. The bump may be an enlarged bone or bone spur, as seen to the right. Like bunions, tailor’s bunions may take several years to develop. Learn how to get rid of tailors bunion and treatment options.
Considerations Before Bunion Surgery
Age is a factor for bunion surgery, not just because of the anaesthesia involved. Still, because young people run an increased risk of the bunion returning for several reasons, including that their bones are still forming, they tend to be more active.
They also tend to forgo sensible shoes for fashionable footwear.
This means that unless the problem is debilitating non-surgical treatments should be put into place as best as possible until the patient is older.
2. General Health
Evaluating your general health is a standard procedure for any surgery; pre-existing medical conditions can prevent, or interfere with, the healing process.
For instance, diabetes often affects the circulatory system, which increases the risk of infection and delayed healing of wounds, both of which are severe problems for recovering surgery patients.
It is imperative that all candidates fully disclose their medical histories and their current health state before proceeding with any surgery.
3. Occupation and lifestyle
Occupation matters greatly when considering bunion surgery; if you are a professional dancer or athlete, this type of treatment will likely not be a realistic option until retirement.
Likewise, lifestyle is an important consideration as well; if you lead an active life that involves sports and physical activity, joint mobility will likely be a priority for you (surgery may decrease the range of motion in your toes).
An active lifestyle increases the chances of the bunion returning post-surgery as well.
Bunion surgery may cause reduced mobility in the foot even if the rest of the healing goes well.
4. Severity of Affliction
Surgery for bunions is usually only an option if you are in severe pain and non-surgical remedies have failed to alleviate symptoms or prevent the problem from worsening.
There are risks and complications with any surgery, and bunion surgery is no exception. Whether or not to undergo this invasive treatment will be made with your GP or podiatrist.
Read this post that explains how one of our patients cured her bunion: How I cured my bunion.
General Surgical Procedures
Regardless of the type of surgery decided upon, a local or general anaesthetic will be administered.
A minimum of one incision will be made in the big toe area to allow surgical instruments to be inserted and manipulated, sometimes with the help of x-rays.
Post-surgery requirements may include a plaster cast or other dressing to stabilize the toes and foot in the correct position, though you may be given a unique shoe that allows you to walk by putting pressure on your heel.
Types of Surgery
There are several different types of surgical procedures used to treat bunions. The severity of bone deformation and displacement will dictate the method used for each patient. The overall condition of the joint will be evaluated as well.
Surgical treatment may involve using screws or pins to hold everything in place during the healing period, though some of these tools may be permanently left in the foot.
The following list outlines the most common types of surgery for this type of affliction:
This is the most common surgery performed for bunion correction, wherein the protruding lump is removed from the bone in the toe so that the foot structure can be correctly realigned.
The toe joint will also be realigned, and this too may involve removing auxiliary pieces of bone that are not a part of the visible deformation.
Distal Soft Tissue Realignment
This type of surgery is most often used to treat a mild deformity of the bone. The bunion is minimized through soft tissue manipulations such as tendon release and capsular tightening.
This type of treatment aims to improve the stability of the big toe joint specifically and the foot in general. While this type of treatment can be performed independently, it’s usually used in tandem with an osteotomy.
Arthrodesis is usually only proscribed for bone deformities that are too severe to be fixed with other treatments as it requires fusing the two bones in your big toe joint together.
Cases involving severe rheumatoid arthritis or radical deterioration are prime candidates for this type of surgery.
Arthrodesis is not generally recommended for younger patients because the big toe will no longer move at the base (the metatarsophalangeal joint will become immobilized.)
3. Keller’s Arthroplasty
Keller’s Arthroplasty is also called an Excision Arthroplasty as it involves excising the bunion and part of the afflicted joint bone of the big toe.
A ‘false joint’ forms along with the resulting scar tissue, which involves using temporary wires to pin the common in place for roughly three weeks post-surgery, at which point the pins are removed.
This procedure is reserved for severe and difficult-to-treat bunions in very elderly patients.
Minimally Invasive Bunion Surgery
This is a new type of surgery being explored by The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE). Still, as the procedure is unique, there is little reliable information on the effectiveness—and safety—of this procedure.
Post Surgery Care
After bunion surgery, you can expect foot and ankle swelling to occur for three months and sometimes longer. You are required to keep your foot elevated to minimize swelling. Use crutches when moving around.
You should not wear your usual shoes for three to four months post-op; in fact, you may be required to wear special shoes that allow you to walk on your heel while protecting the incision.
A plaster cast or other forms of bandages may be used to keep bone and soft tissue in place during the healing process.
Your doctor or podiatrist will also discuss modifying the type of shoe that you should wear.
You will be encouraged to wear flat or low-heeled, wide-fitting shoes with good arch support that are ideally made from leather to avoid constricting the pressure points of the feet and toes.
Post-surgery foot care is crucial to avoid another bunion and foot pain from developing once again.
Preventive Measures include:
- Wear wide-fitting toe box shoes
- Avoid constrictive, high-heeled shoes
- Exercise your feet
- Wear a corrective flexible bunion splint
Frequently Asked Questions
Can bunions be corrected at home?
Unfortunately no. Bunions develop over time. Once you have a bunion, it will likely continue to grow. The best at-home treatment for bunions includes bunion splints, braces, ice packs, and wearing the correct shoes. Finding pain relief through home remedies, orthotics, and other treatments is possible.
Can I straighten my bunions without surgery?
No. If you have a severe bunion, your best option is to have bunion surgery. There are some measures you can take to be more comfortable or to slow a bunion. This includes using a bunion splint overnight, wearing the correct shoes, and soaking your feet in a foot bath.
What is the best treatment for several bunion?
Bunion surgery. The only way to permanently remove bunions is surgery, sometimes called a bunionectomy. Applying ice to a sore bunion for 20 minutes several times per day can help reduce swelling.
What's the most effective bunion treatment at home?
Cold therapy. This constricts blood vessels, which helps bring down swelling. Use a cold ice pack for fast relief if you are in great pain. A bag of peas in your freezer works like a charm.
What can I do to lower the risk of getting a bunion on my other foot?
Select proper shoes. Closed shoes should have a wide toe box that does not rub against any of your toes. Your shoes should conform to the shape of your feet without squeezing or pressing any part of your foot.