What is a Bunion?

Bunions, medically known as hallux valgus, are commonest and most painful foot problems affecting the human race. Bunions develop when the tissue or the bone at the joint at the base of the big toe gets displaced. Additionally, pressure on the joint and abnormal movements force the big toe to bend towards the other toes resulting in a painful bump at the joint which is known as bunion. The joint at the base of the big toe has to bear most of the weight when walking, so bunions can produce constant severe pain. There also may be stiffness and soreness in the toe joint, which makes it difficult for one to wear shoes.

Symptoms include bursitis, redness in the affected region, callus and/or blistering formation over the bunion. There also may be nerve damage which causes sharp pain and/or numbness. If this condition is not treated, then the pain may spread to adjacent joints. Women are more affected by bunions than men.

How Are Bunions Treated? Is It Possible To Treat Bunions Without Surgery?

Bunionectomy is the traditional method for treatment of bunion. Bunionectomy is a surgical procedure where the bunion is removed or excised. After bunionectomy, patient often has to use highly cushioned shoes and orthotic arch supports. Surgery does give relief from pain associated with bunion, however, there is debate that surgery for bunion does not address the source of the problem and is thought to be an extreme solution; whereas, relief from bunions may be achievable with less invasive solutions. It is noteworthy that bunions may recur after surgery, especially if the cause of the problem is not rectified.

When is Surgery for Bunions Recommended?

Surgery is recommended when the bunion has been causing pain for at least a year. Surgery may also be needed if bunions lead to other painful foot problems, such as bursitis, hammertoes, pain in the balls of the feet, or development of bunion under the little toe.

Simple Approaches for Treating Bunions Without Surgery

Simple Approaches for Treating Bunions Without Surgery

Given below are some approaches to relieve the pressure and pain caused by bunion on the toe joint:

  • It is important to maintain a normal weight.
  • Shoe inserts can be used to keep the feet in correct position. Prescription orthotic devices and over-the-counter arch supports can be used.
  • The bunion should be protected using gel-filled pad or moleskin pad.
  • A splint or toe spacers can be used at night to keep the toe straight and alleviate discomfort. This should be done under a doctor’s guidance. With this treatment, the toes are gradually restored to their natural position. As the toes spread out, the bunion moves back in.
  • Ice packs, warm soaks, massage and ultrasound can also be used.
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as naproxen and ibuprofen helps in relieving pain and swelling.
  • Well-fitting footwear, which is wide in the toe region, should be used.
  • Range of motion exercises can be done, which help in relaxing and "retraining" the foot muscles so that the toes can ease back into their natural direction.
  • High-heeled shoes which have narrow and pointed toes should be avoided as they cause friction and abnormal movement of the toe joints.
  • Activities, such as ballet dancing, which require one to wear constrictive shoes should be avoided.
  • Tight-fitting stockings and socks should be avoided.
  • Cushions and pads help reduce the discomfort caused by bunions, however; over-padding should be avoided as it puts more pressure and causes more pain.
  • When at home, padded socks can be worn.
  • Walking barefoot helps a lot in mild to moderate bunions.
  • To curb inflammation and pain in the bunions, one should adopt a diet which consists of anti-inflammatory foods, protein rich foods and foods which are rich in vitamins A, B complex, C and E.

What Kind Of Footwear Should Be Worn To Treat Bunions?

It is important to wear the right kind of footwear to encourage the bunion to move back in. the footwear should have the following features:

  • They should have wide toe boxes so that the toes can spread.
  • They should have little or no elevated heels.
  • They should have little or no arch support.
  • Footwear should have a flexible design and should be lightweight.

Home Remedies for Treating Bunions Without Surgery

Toe-Stretching Exercises

Exercises which strengthen the abductor hallucis, which is a muscle in the foot which flexes the big toe, are very beneficial home remedies for relieving the discomfort from bunions. Doing stretching exercises for toes helps in keeping them mobile and flexible. Stretching exercises boost circulation, help in bone realignment and improve red blood cell activity. However, these exercises won’t help in re-positioning of the deformed toe.

Take an elastic band and place it around the big toes of each foot. Gently turn your feet outwards till there is a stretch felt on the big toes. Keep this position for 1 minute, relax and then repeat. This exercise should be done for 15 minutes about thrice a day.

Cold Compresses

After being on your feet for prolonged periods of time, the bunion will become painful or inflamed. Cold compresses are the best solution to relieve this naturally at home. The cold temperature provides a numbing effect and relieves pain.

Take a thin washcloth and wrap it around several ice cubes. Apply this homemade ice pack on affected foot region for about 10 minutes, then remove it for 5 minutes and then reapply. Repeat this process 3 to 4 times until there is relief. Never apply ice directly on the skin.

Warm Oil Massage

Warm oil can be used to massage the affected toe area and is very effective home remedy in treating pain from bunions. Gentle massage helps in improving the blood flow, which will alleviate the pain and inflammation. Massage also helps in reducing the pressure between the toes and cuts down the risk of developing calluses and corns.

Take some oil (olive, castor, coconut etc.) and warm it in a microwave. Take a cotton swab and dip it in the warm oil and dab it on the affected region. Gently do deep-friction massage for about 10 minutes. Repeat this thrice a day.

Epsom Salt Soak

Soaking your feet in Epsom salt soak is very effective home remedy in soothing sore feet due to bunions. Epsom salt contains high quantities of magnesium sulfate which helps in getting rid of pain and inflammation occurring as a result of bunion.

Fill a foot tub with lukewarm water and add few tablespoons of Epsom salt in it. Soak your feet in this for about 20 minutes. Do this remedy daily once a day. Even a plain warm water soak also helps.

Calendula

Calendula is another herb which is full of anti-inflammatory properties and helps in relieving bunion discomforts, such as pain and swelling naturally. Calendula also helps in cutting down the risk of developing calluses and corns on the affected region.

  • Over-the-counter calendula ointment should be applied on the bunions thrice a day.
  • Alternatively, take some fresh calendula leaves and crush them to extract the juice. Apply this calendula juice on the affected region and let it dry on its own. Repeat this remedy thrice a day.

Chamomile

Chamomile gives very effective relief from bunion problems. Chamomile has anti-inflammatory properties which makes it a useful home remedy in reducing pain, inflammation and swelling.

  • You can drink a cup of chamomile tea thrice a day for relief.
  • Another chamomile remedy is mix some water in 1 tablespoon of dried chamomile to form a paste. Smear this paste on the bunions and leave it for 20 minutes, after which rinse it off with water. Use this remedy twice a day.
  • Alternatively warm chamomile teabags can be placed on the bunions for about 10 minutes thrice a day.

Turmeric

Turmeric has the compound curcumin, which is rich in anti-inflammatory properties which help alleviate pain and inflammation.

  • Take a glass of lukewarm water and dissolve 1 teaspoon of turmeric in it. Drink this twice a day to alleviate inflammation.
  • Take half-a-teaspoon of turmeric powder and mix it with some olive oil to form a paste. Apply this paste directly on the bunion thrice a day for many days to get relief.
  • Curcumin capsules can also be taken after consulting with your doctor regarding the right dosage.

Cayenne Pepper

Cayenne pepper helps in relieving pain caused by bunions. Cayenne pepper contains capsaicin which has anti-inflammatory properties that fight inflammation, pain and discomfort from bunions.

  • A thin layer of petroleum jelly should be applied on the affected area after which put some cayenne pepper powder on it. Leave this for some minutes and then slowly press on the area using a piece of cloth.
  • Other than this, an ointment which has capsaicin in it can be used to directly apply on the bunion thrice a day.

Acupuncture

Acupuncture may not get rid of bunions permanently, but helps in easing the pain from the bunion. Acupuncture consists of using thin needles locally around the bunion and on the bunion with points to address weak spleen, which can be an underlying cause of bunions. It is important to get acupuncture done by an expert specializing in it. A few sessions of acupuncture may be needed to alleviate the pain and to enhance the mobility of the foot.

Also Read:

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD, FFARCSI

Last Modified On: July 26, 2017

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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