Bunion Treatment Without Surgery

Updated 5/29/2018
Conservative Bunion Treatment Options, University Foot and Ankle Institute

A bunion is a common problem that comes in all shapes and sizes. When they hurt, something should be done to ease the pain and make life more comfortable.

 

But bunions don't always mean surgery. There are several helpful strategies to ease bunion pain without surgery.

 

It is always best not to ignore a bunion. They don't go away, and are slowly progressive. At University Foot and Ankle Institute, we are happy to help with conservative management as well as a comprehensive and personalized surgical approach.

Bunion Clinical trial, UFAI

 

Conservative Treatment Options for Bunions

A quick tip before we start: don't ignore a bunion! Pretending they are not there almost always contributes to them worsening. So, best to accept it, be aware of them, and look out for them. They need a little love and attention to keep you out of trouble. And many of these steps can slow bunion progression down and reduce discomfort.

Shoes to avoid with bunions, University Foot and Ankle Institute
Pointy shoes put pressure on the bump, causing more pain and can even promote the development of the bunion.

 

Shoes

Appropriate shoes can greatly reduce bunion pain. Avoid shoes with a tight, narrow toe box that pushes the big toe toward the second toe. A more rounded and wider toe box will reduce pressure influencing and pushing the bunion and big toe into a progressively worse position. In terms of heel height, flats aren't recommended, nor are high heels. Choose something in the middle.

 

Custom Orthotics for Bunion Relief

Because bunion formation is often greatly influenced by midfoot instability, adding arch support and hind foot and midfoot control and correcting the foot position can slow the worsening of bunion deformities. Some modifications and corrections can be built into the orthotic to off weight pressure to the bunion area.

 

Bunion Pads

There are a host of padding options for bunions. These include silicone gel sleeves that cushion directly over the bunion prominence. Moleskin can reduce rubbing in certain shoes. Toe spacers placed between the big and 2nd toe can help better align the big toe.

 

Medications

Whether topical, oral, or injected, anti-inflammatory medications can reduce pain temporarily. Steroid or cortisone injections can help short term but are quite negative to the soft tissue structures and should be used very sparingly. They can thin the skin and joint capsule. Topical medications like compound creams, BioFreeze, Voltaren gel, Lidocaine patches can all help reduce pain and inflammation. They don't fix bunions, but can make them complain less. New techniques such as PRP or amniotic membrane injections can improve a painful joint.

 

Low impact exercise options for bunions, University Foot and Ankle Institute
Low impact exercises such as stationary biking put less stress on the bunion.

Exercise & Stretching

Stretching exercises and range of motion maneuvers can help reduce bunion discomfort. The 1st metatarsal and big toe begin to assume a position that is out of alignment. Pushing and manipulating the 1st metatarsal over and straightening the big toe, then moving the big toe joint up and down can encourage better motion and position of the big toe. It can also help prevent stiffening of the big toe joint in a misaligned position.

 

Bunion Splints

There are bunion night splints that place a corrective stretch on the bunion and big toe joint. They can be very helpful to keep the joint stretched out, avoid stiffening in the misaligned position, and can help slow the worsening of the bunion.

 

Activity Modification

While we hate to recommend a less active lifestyle, if bunions begin to hurt, it may be wise to modify activities. For exercise, choose activities that don't include repetitive pressure on the ball of the foot (things like lunges and step aerobics may be contributing to bunion pain). There are plenty of exercise with lower stress on bunion areas, like stationary bike, rowing machine, swimming, weight training, etc.

 

Can You Cure a Bunion Without Surgery?

The only “real cure” for bunions is surgery. However, these tips for smart conservative choices and management can help reduce pain and slow the worsening of bunions.

 

When is it Time for Bunion Surgery?

Many patients ask "When should I have surgery?" In most cases, we recommend you consider surgery when it is regularly painful, and has begun to limit your desired activities. When this happens, it may be time for surgery.

 

Although they don't always cause problems, uncorrected bunions can cause painful complications that include:

 

Bursitis

This occurs when the small sac of fluid (bursae) that cushion bones, and tendons surrounding your joints become inflamed

 

Hammertoe

The abnormal bend in the toe that pushing the middle of the toe upward in a claw-like position.

 

Sesamoiditis

A painful condition that occurs when the tendons that surround the sesamoids become inflamed.

 

Hallux Rigidus

Arthritis of the big toe that can result in a loss of cartilage, stiffness, pain, spur formation and an altered gait.

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