You might think of a bunion as an unsightly annoyance. But bunions are more than simple (albeit painful) bumps; they are a sign that something is wrong with your feet. Bunions result from years of improper foot motion and stress. Over time, that abnormal motion forces the bone and tissue at the base of the toe out of place, creating a prominent bump and causing foot instability.
Ignoring a bunion almost never works. The pain—and deformity—will almost surely increase unless you take steps to relieve the pressure on the affected joint. The good news is that proper treatment can stop bunion pain and discomfort and increase your quality of life.
What Causes Bunions?
Bunions take time to develop. The most common causes of bunions are:
- Some feet are particularly susceptible to developing bunions. If either of your parents had bunions, you might develop them also.
- Ill-fitting shoes. Tight, narrow shoes, such as high heels, can aggravate bunions and contribute to pain. A podiatrist can help with the selection of high heels and other footwear.
- Foot injuries. A foot injury can alter the position of bones and soft tissue structures in the feet, setting you up for a bunion.
- Foot deformities. Neurological disorders and arthritis can also cause bunions.
Bunions typically start small. You might notice a bit of redness or skin irritation on the side of your big toe joint. That’s a sign from your body that it’s time to make some changes. If you pad the bunion and switch to better-fitting shoes, you may be able to slow the bunion’s progression as well as minimize pain.
If your bunion is large and causing significant pain, it’s time to see a professional. Today’s podiatrists are highly trained foot doctors who can help you find relief.
- Orthotics. Specially designed orthotic inserts can help keep your feet in alignment, relieving pressure on the affected joint. Today’s You don’t have to live with uncomfortable, unattractive bunions. Today’s podiatrist can work with you to develop a treatment plan that will decrease pain and improve the function and appearance of your feet. Small bunions are treated conservatively, while large bunions may require surgery. Consulting a podiatrist while your bunion is still small may eliminate the need for more invasive treatment later.
Common bunion treatments include:
- Padding & taping. Often the first step in a treatment plan, padding the bunion minimizes pain. Taping helps keep the foot in a normal position and reduces stress and pain.
- Anti-inflammatory medications. Over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen can ease the pain and inflammation associated with bunions. Podiatrists can also prescribe special medications and administer cortisone injections to decrease inflammation.
- Physical therapy. Special foot exercises can relieve pain and increase flexibility and function of the foot.
- Orthotics. Specially designed orthotic inserts can help keep your feet in alignment, relieving pressure on the affected joint. Today’s podiatrist is an expert on fitting orthotics.
- Surgery. A variety of surgical techniques are used to treat bunions. The technique used will depend on the severity and location of your bunion. A podiatrist can review your surgical options with you and help you understand what to expect pre- and post-surgery.