Bunions 3 min read

How to treat a bunion?

How to treat a bunion? How to treat a bunion? How to treat a bunion?

Bunions are bony bumps on the side of your foot, just at the joint where your big toe is attached to your foot.

Bunions slowly develop over time and cause the big toe to turn inwards, towards the other toes. The displacement leads to abnormal motion and increased pressure on this joint. Over years, the abnormal motion and pressure slowly causes a change in the alignment of the bones causing the big toe to turn inwards, sometimes even moving on top of the toe next to it.

As a consequence the joint is pushed outwards, causing the bunion bump. The same condition on the little toe is called bunionette or “tailors toe”. Bunions often lead to secondary problems, such as blisters, corns or calluses.

Prevention is key!

If you are prone to developing bunions because they run in your family or because you have an inflammatory condition or foot deformities, the best way to avoid getting bunions is to wear comfortable footwear. You should avoid shoes with high heels, pointy tips or shoes that are too narrow. Instead choose wide, comfortable shoes with a low heel, a soft sole and adequate room for your toes. Let a shop assistant guide you in the choice of your shoes and size. Maintaining a normal bodyweight is also an important factor.

What if I already have a bunion? - Bunion Treatment

Bunions can only be removed by surgery, but nevertheless, surgery is rarely necessary. Their progression and the symptoms can usually easily be managed and treated conservatively and even at home.

  • Footwear – If you already have a bunion, wide shoes are equally important to slow down the progression as well as to ease the pain. Stretchers might also help to loosen your shoes. Buy your shoes at the end of the day when your feet are largest and let a shop assistant measure both your feet before advising you in your choice of shoes.
  • Padding – If your bunion rubs against the shoe, padding might help you. Specialist hydrocolloid bunion plasters, such as COMPEED® Bunion Plasters relieve pressure and rubbing on the bunion and thus ease the pain. They also help to prevent blisters and further hardening of the skin on the bunion.
  • Orthotics – Your doctor will advise you regarding the best options to manage your bunions. Depending on the severity, insoles, toe spacers or toe supports might help position the foot correctly.
  • Pain management – Bunion pain might be eased by cooling, using an ice pack or a bag of frozen peas for about 5 min at a time, or by warm soaks. Anti-inflammatory drugs, such as aspirin or ibuprofen will also help. Seek advice from your doctor or your pharmacist on which medicinal treatment is best for you.

When should I seek medical advice?

You should always see your doctor if you have diabetes since your foot problems might have a different cause.

If the pain is persistent or so strong that it affects your daily activities, you should see a doctor. You should also seek medical advice if the condition doesn’t improve after a couple of weeks of home treatment or if the condition worsens. Your doctor will advise you regarding the best options for you to manage your bunions. Depending on the severity, your doctor might recommend orthotics or refer you to a surgeon in order to discuss the option of surgically removing your bunion and correcting the underlying condition.

How can I ease bunion pain & symptoms?

Treatment options for bunions vary depending on how painful and severe it is. In addition to medical aid, there are some DIY methods you can try to ease your bunion pain. These include making sure your shoes are comfortable and roomy enough to accommodate your toes: avoid tight, narrow shoes which can make the discomfort worse and, where possible, stay away from high heels and hard soles.

You can also get over the counter pads and plasters, like Compeed Bunion Plasters, which can provide relief from pressure and rubbing, prevent further damage and cushion the space between your toe and the shoe.

Padded shoe inserts can help evenly distribute weight across your foot and take the pressure off specific areas, and pain relief medication can help ease the painful symptoms so you can go about your day more easily.

Icing your bunions can help reduce inflammation and provide relief if you’ve been on your feet all day, while soaking the foot in warm water may also help reduce symptoms. If you are overweight, losing a little weight can help take some of the pressure off the feet and reduce painful symptoms.

What causes bunions?

Bunions are visible bumps on the side of the big toe. The big toe consists of two joints, and the largest of the two is the meta-tarsophalangeal joint (MTP). Bunions can form when the bones that make up the MTP joint get out of alignment, the phalanx bones of the big toe start pointing towards the second toe and the MTP joint gets larger and starts protruding. This can often lead to inflammation and swelling, which in turn leads to difficulty walking over time.

Bunions are often caused by an inherited faulty structure of the foot. Bunions themselves are not inherited, but certain foot types are more likely to develop them. Having an inflammatory condition like rheumatoid arthritis may also cause bunions. Narrow shoes which lead to toe crowding don’t cause bunions, but they can speed up the process and make the symptoms worse.

Pressure on the big toe due to uneven weight distribution can also cause the big toe to point towards the second toe. Bunions are progressive, and usually develop slowly over time. The bigger they get, the more painful they can become. Pressure from the big toe may eventually push the second toe out of alignment and cause issues with the smaller toes as well.

Can bunions be treated without surgery?

In most cases, bunions can be managed without surgery. Whilst you cannot reverse the bunion without going under the knife, you can use non-surgical methods to reduce pain and keep the bunion from getting worse. Ways to treat bunions without surgery include changing your footwear to well-fitting, wide or open-toed shoes. Your doctor can recommend shoes which would work for your specific feet.

Silicon pads, which are worn inside the shoe, can cushion the bunion and prevent further inflammation – although make sure to test it out for short periods of time, as using the wrong pad for your condition can sometimes make it worse. You may also benefit from shoe inserts, toe spacers and splints.

What options do I have over the counter?

There are various over-the-counter options for bunions. It’s important to keep in mind that these options can provide pain relief, but they will not reverse the bunion or prevent it from getting worse. If you are concerned about your bunion and would like it corrected, please speak to your doctor.

  • Worn similarly to a sock, bunion sleeves act by slowly pulling your big toe away from your other toes with the aim of improving your balance and gait by restoring natural toe alignment.
  • Toe splints are wrapped around the foot to help align the toe and stop it from pushing inwards. This may provide pain relief, but it will not correct the positioning of the toe long-term.
  • Toe spacers are usually made out of gel or foam for comfort. They are typically placed between the big and next toe, to keep them in place. Again, these benefits are usually temporary and confined to when you wear the spacer.
  • Compeed Bunion Plasters provide relief from pressure and rubbing, and can prevent further hard skin from building up. Compeed plasters contain hydrocolloid active gel technology for instant pain relief and cushioning.
  • Over-the-counter pain relief can reduce your experience of pain, although it won’t reduce or stop the bunion.
  • If you’ve been on your feet all day and you’re experiencing inflammation and pain, you may want to apply an ice pack to the affected area to relieve your symptoms. Check with your doctor first if have poor circulation.
  • If you are in a lot of pain, and you find that over-the-counter options aren’t helping, then you may want to talk to your doctor about the possibility of surgery.