A bunion is a bony bump that sticks out at the bottom of your big toe. Bunions form due to the misalignment of bones, tendons, and tissues at the base of your big toe. This causes your big toe to bend toward the smaller toes.
Several nonsurgical treatment options can help alleviate pain, reduce swelling, and prevent bunions from worsening. But if these methods don’t ease your symptoms or if you want to completely remove a bunion, surgery is necessary.
This article will cover the effectiveness of nonsurgical bunion treatments and provide tips for managing symptoms and preventing progression.
Nonsurgical treatments may help to relieve pain, ease swelling, and slow down bunion formation. Below, we explain how each of these options works.
You must wear appropriate shoes if you have bunions. Wearing proper footwear helps to alleviate discomfort and prevent bunion progression.
Choose bunion-friendly shoes that are roomy enough to provide sufficient space for your toes. This may mean you need to go up a size.
It’s also helpful to wear comfortable shoes with heels under 1-inch high. And avoid wearing pointed, narrow, or tight shoes.
Orthotics may help to slow or stop bunion progression.
Shoe orthotics can also help to evenly distribute weight on your foot, which can reduce pressure on your big toe.
You can buy orthotics in drugstores or visit a podiatrist for custom orthotics.
Splints and spacers
You can wear a splint at night to hold your toe straight, which may help to prevent your joint from stiffening in the misaligned position and slow bunion formation.
But once you remove the splint, the toe will return to where it was. You can also wear toe spacers, which alleviate pressure on your toes.
There are also exercises you can do to relieve pain, increase flexibility, and develop muscular strength. Bunion exercises can also help to improve your gait and foot mobility. But exercise alone won’t correct the bone misalignment that causes bunions.
Nonsurgical treatments can help to relieve symptoms, improve comfort, and slow a bunion’s progression. But they don’t correct the underlying cause, which is a misalignment of the foot bones.
To make treatment more effective, it’s best to start using nonsurgical methods as soon as you start to develop a bunion. This may also help to reduce the severity.
Bunions are permanent without surgery, but surgery isn’t always necessary. In general, bunions need surgery if the pain is severe and conservative treatments don’t keep bunions from getting worse, or if it’s affecting your activities or causing other foot concerns.
If you have bunion surgery, you’ll still need to take measures to prevent them from coming back.
Bunion surgery will usually reduce pain and improve your foot’s alignment, but it’s still possible for bunions to return.
To prevent bunions from recurring after surgery, the orthopedic surgeon will advise you on footwear and may recommend that you wear a splint or custom orthotics to alleviate pressure on your feet.
Your surgeon or a physical therapist will advise you to do foot exercises specific to your type of surgery and needs.
The exercises will focus on restoring and improving strength, range of motion, and joint flexion and extension. They may use hands-on techniques like soft tissue mobilization and range of motion stretching.
Other tips for bunion relief
There are several natural remedies that you can use to manage your bunion symptoms and keep them from getting worse.
Here are a few tips you can try at home:
- Wear well-fitting, comfortable footwear that provide sufficient toe room.
- Avoid flip-flops, high heels, and pointed, narrow, or tight shoes.
- Use padded shoe inserts to enhance comfort, alignment, and arch support.
- Wear a brace to hold the toe straight.
- Wear toe spacers to alleviate pressure on your toes.
- Wear thin, loose socks to prevent pressure on your bunion. Avoid tight or thick socks.
- To alleviate pressure and irritation, use moleskin or gel-filled pads for cushioning and protection.
- When possible, take off your shoes and stretch your toes.
- Elevate your feet when you’re sitting or lying down.
- Maintain a healthy body weight.
- Do foot exercises.
- Massage your feet.
- To relieve pain and inflammation, soak your feet in a warm Epsom salt bath.
- To ease swelling and inflammation, use ice packs for 20 minutes at a time. Do this before and after physical activity or long periods of standing.
- Take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) medications like ibuprofen or aspirin to relieve pain.
- Try natural anti-inflammatory supplements like spirulina, curcumin, and ginger.
There are many ways to manage bunion symptoms, relieve pain, and keep them from progressing. For best results, start treatment as soon as possible.
Take care of your feet by wearing comfortable shoes with arch supports, bunion pads, or toe spacers. To reduce discomfort, use ice packs, take an Epsom salt bath, and rest and elevate your feet.
If you have a bunion, talk with a podiatrist or a healthcare professional about your treatment options. This is especially important if it causes severe pain, leads to additional foot concerns, or affects your physical activity.