Bunions represent one of the most painful foot conditions. Also known as Hallus Valgus, a bunion is a bump that can be felt and seen protruding from your big toe. According to research estimates, about one in four people in the age group of 18 to 65 years might develop bunions. For people above 65 years, there is a more staggering chance that they will develop bunions.
What are bunions?
Bunions are considered a deformity of the bones of your foot. It is a misalignment of the large bones leading up to your big toe. These bones, called metatarsal bones, start to shift towards the other two, angling itself so much that it might overlap the next toe. This is a condition as painful as one can imagine.
The shifting of this large metatarsal bone then forces an outgrowth outside of the big toe, resulting in a visibly large bump on your foot. This bony lump makes it nearly impossible to wear most shoes. Also, as your foot and especially the big toe carries most of your body weight, the pressure on the protruding bone increases painfully.
How to Treat Bunions?
Depending on the level of pain your foot is radiating, and the threshold of your pain, you can explore various treatment options. Always consult an expert for your health concerns and have an open and honest discussion. However, even though surgery is an option for treating bunions, there are various non-surgical ways to treat them.
Note: bunions are not the kind of problem that can go away or just be ignored. It is a progressive condition for which treatment should be started as early as possible. Here are a few non-surgical options to treat bunions.
Non-Surgical Treatment Options for Bunions
Also known as conservative treatment options, these non-surgical options are mostly symptomatic – aimed at treating the symptoms as they present. These options significantly reduce discomfort in the foot and soothe the inflammation and irritation caused to the nerve and soft tissue by the bony lump.
1. Choosing the Right Shoes
The first and probably the most logical option is to choose the right kind of shoe. Select the shoes that are not narrow so that they do not put pressure on your toe. Since daily footwear has a significant impact on your posture and health, you must choose the shoes that do not increase your pain.
Shoes with a wide toebox that is round in shape mostly work well in reducing the pain and hampering the growth of the bunions. Such shoes will relieve your pain. On the other hand, narrow toebox or pointy shoes, especially heels, will worsen your condition and pain. Wearing heels pushes more pressure on your toes and is thus not at all recommended for people who have bunions.
Here are some tips for choosing the correct-fitting shoes for relieving bunions:
- Always try on shoes and choose according to your comfort instead of going by the shoe size as marked by the industry.
- Have your feet measured and if one foot is bigger than the other, then go for the bigger size and fitting.
- Try fitting and trying shoes at the end of the day. That is when your feet are the largest during the whole day.
- Avoid heels.
- Try walking around the store to get a complete picture of how the shoe fits your feet while walking and sitting.
- Shoes do stretch when you wear them constantly, but that is not the risk you should be taking with the pain due to bunions. Always buy shoes that are comfortable and do not make you slip.
2. Special Orthotics for Relieving Bunions Pain
As bunions are primarily caused by midfoot instability, using custom-made orthotics for providing additional arch support is important. This added support is vital for correcting the hind and midfoot coordination, resulting in a correct position for the foot and thus, slowing the progression of the bunion. This custom orthotics can be bought in consultation with a bunion specialist.
3. Using Bunion Pads
Bunion pads are also among the effective non-surgical ways to curb the problem. This padding is essential in relieving the discomfort and is easily available over the counter in pharmacies. Here are a few options for your consideration:
- Moleskin pads or sleeves for your hind and midfoot effectively reduce the chances of your shoe and skin rubbing against each other.
- Silicone gel sleeves are very useful in protecting the bunion from the pressure of the shoes.
- Toe spacers work great for forcing space between the big toe and the next one. This also helps in correcting the alignment of the bone over time.
Pain medications for bunions can most certainly help more than the conservative methods, but they are considered short-term relief from pain. Some of the common medications that you can consider using include:
These non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are to be taken orally or applied topically.They can also be in the form of injection and provide relief for the time being.
- Topical Ointments
Topical compound creams also work wonders for relieving the excruciating bunions pain.
This is a topical analgesic spray that numbs your senses by using menthol; thus, relieving pain.
These are also analgesic with menthol in them. They are in the form of patches.
- Steroid injections
The use of steroid or cortisone injections is also accounted for as a non-surgical way of treating bunions. However, these injections are not recommended to use frequently as they cast severe impacts on the body’s soft tissues and joints.
- Regenerative medicine
This is a relatively new method of treating joint pain, such as bunions. This involves the use of platelet-rich plasma.
Although exercising might seem like an impossible thing to do when you cannot move your foot properly, it effectively relieves the bunion pain. Increased mobility and motion in your foot will help better the positioning of the big toe. On the way to go about it is to try straightening out the big toe while manipulating the first metatarsal bone.
This and other forms of physical activities such as swimming, weight training, rowing, or bicycling can significantly help relieve the pain and slow down the growth of the protruding bone. Nevertheless, always consult your doctor for the activities that suit your health and effectively improve the conditions for you.
6. Bunion Splints
Bunion splints are used at night to manipulate the culprit, big toe joint. These splints help in forcing the joint to stretch out, thus preventing stiffness in the foot and correcting the misaligned bone.
We have written a detailed article on Bunion Splints; you can read it to get more insightful information about them.
Much like braces for your teeth, bunion braces also help in aligning your metatarsal bone and taking the pressure off your foot. However, bracing is a temporary solution. As soon as the braces are off, the shape and alignment of the toe return to their previous condition.
When to Consider Surgical Treatment?
These conservative or non-surgical methods of treating bunions are effective, but they are all temporary. They can hamper the progress of the bunion but cannot nip it in the bud. If you are in constant pain and no methods mentioned above provide you relief, then it is best to consult a doctor for surgical options.
If the pain exceeds too much and hinders your personal and social life, it might be time to consider surgery.
Bunions progress through time unless the condition is surgically treated. However, that does not mandate surgery as the only option. Non-surgical options work to their maximum capacity and can prevent you from pain and hassle for many years. It is important to be prudent about deciding your treatment options.