5 Bunion Surgeon Tips For Bunion Treatment

Bunion treatment range from bunion pads to bunion surgery. Getty Images / bgwalker

A bunion is a prominent bone at the inside of the big toe, which is the result of a structural malalignment of the big toe joint.  They may be considered unsightly by some people, but the real concern is that that can be painful or become painful over time.  Physical symptoms of bunions include redness over the boney prominence, swelling and/or calluses (hardened skin).  A bunion may make fitting shoes difficult and may significantly impact simple activities.

 Most people with bunions will try a variety of bunion treatments prior to bunion surgery.  Some bunion treatments are aimed at alleviating the symptoms whereas other are focused on reversing bunion.  

1. Foot Exercises

Foot and ankle exercises may be helpful for those with bunions.   Bunions may ultimately form from a muscular imbalance at the big toe joint, and performing specific exercises may help counteract the bunion-forming forces.  Bunion exercises are broken down into two types, muscular strengthening, and range-of-motion.  Foot exercises that develop the core (intrinsic) muscles of the foot include grasping items with the toes, as well as spreading the toes apart. Picking up marbles or a towel with one's toes activated the deep muscles in the foot.  Manual range of motion of the big toe joint keeps the big toe joint supple and mobile. 

2. Pain Medication

When bunions become painful, topical and oral pain medication may alleviate the pain and lessen inflammation.

 Topical creams may soothe an acutely aggravated bunion.  Methylated creams create a cooling sensation that helps the distracted one from the underlying discomfort.  Creams that contain capsaicin (the substance in chili peppers) has pain reduction and possible anti-inflammatory properties.  Oral anti-inflammatory medications (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication) may be useful when the bunions are associated with pain, swelling and/or redness.

 Pain medication, whether topical or oral, on treating the symptoms of bunions.  

3. Bunion Pads & Splints

Bunion pads and splints are devices that are placed onto the foot to treat the symptoms of bunions and/or address the structural mal-alignment.  Bunion pads provide a layer of cushion for the bunion against the shoe to lessen or remove pressure irritation.  Bunion splints on the other hand, actively push the big toe into better alignment.  Some bunion splints may be worn during the day (ie toe spacers) in shoes.  Night bunion splints are probably the best bunion treatment method to attempt to reverse the bunion forming forces.  Nighttime bunion splints can be bulky and cumbersome, which makes people less apt to wear them in the long term.  Nonetheless, several bunion products are available. 

4. Foot Orthotics

Shoe inserts are another method to help treat bunions by providing structural support to the foot, which may improve foot alignment, and ultimately limit bunion progression.  There aren’t bunion-specific orthotics, however, doctors can create prescription orthotics that specifically address a specific foot type.

5. Bunion Surgery

The only method to truly correct a bunion involves bunion surgery.  Bunion surgery involves structurally re-aligning the displaced bones.  Bunion surgery most commonly involves either a bunion cut to realign the top (Austin bunionectomy) or bottom portion of the bone or repositioning the entire bone through a bone mending/fusion procedure at the bottom of the deviated bone (lapidus bunionectomy).  Bunion surgery recovery is involves 6 weeks until the bones mend.  Modern bunion surgery techniques allow for immediate walking after bunion surgery.   

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