A bunion is one of the most common foot deformities, often affecting the joint at the base of the big toe. Anyone can develop this painful condition but it most often occurs in women. A bunion affects the structure of the foot, causing the joint to become enlarged, which causes the big toe to lean inward towards the other toes. In some cases, the big toe even overlaps the toes. This deformed joint may often become red or swollen, especially when wearing certain shoes or after certain physical activities.
A bunion is a gradual deformity, which means that as soon as you begin to notice changes in the joint or you start to experience symptoms you should consult a podiatrist. While the only way to correct the deformity is through surgery this is usually the last treatment option. After all, a foot doctor can often create a treatment plan that will reduce pain and prevent the deformity from progressing without needing to turn to surgery.
The first course of treatment is usually more conservative. You may be able to manage your bunion pain and swelling by:
- Taking over-the-counter NSAIDs
- Icing the bunion for up to 15 minutes at a time, 2-3 times a day
- Placing orthotics into your shoes to alleviate pressure on the joint (talk to your podiatrist about creating custom orthotics)
- Splinting or taping the foot to improve the structural alignment
- Wearing appropriate and supportive footwear that doesn’t put pressure on the toes or bunion
- Applying a bunion pad over the area to prevent a callus from forming while wearing shoes
- Avoiding certain activities and sports that could exacerbate your condition
For many people, these lifestyle changes and simple at-home treatment options are all that’s needed to reduce bunion pain and discomfort, and to prevent the problem from getting worse. Of course, if you find that at-home care isn’t providing you with relief, or if bunion pain is persistent or severe, then you should turn to a podiatrist for an evaluation. Not sure if you have a bunion or not? Call your foot doctor.
When should someone consider bunion surgery?
As we mentioned earlier, bunion surgery is considered a last resort when all other treatment options have been exhausted and they haven’t helped get your bunion symptoms under control. You may also want to consider getting bunion surgery if:
- Your bunion is large and makes it difficult to wear shoes
- Your bunion pain is severe and chronic
- You have trouble walking or moving around because of your bunion
- Your bunion is affecting your quality of life
It can take up to 6 months to fully recover from traditional bunion surgery so it’s important to discuss all of your treatment options with your podiatrist to find the most effective method for getting your bunion symptoms under control.