Help for Your Bunions

When a bunion first forms, it may only be a source of embarrassment when you consider wearing sandals or going barefoot in public. However, in time, it’s likely to cause your big toe to feel painful, swell, or cause the skin covering the protrusion to become irritated.

A bunion is a large bump that protrudes from the side of your foot at the bottom of your big toe. This joint, which occurs at the point where your big toe meets your foot, is called the metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint.

A bunion develops as your big toe begins to gradually lean toward your smaller toes, causing a lump on the bone. Since the MTP joint carries most of your body’s weight when walking, a bunion can cause extreme pain as the weight of your body falls on the bunion.

You’re more likely to develop bunions if you have flat feet, low arches, or loose tendons and joints. Standing for long periods can also make you more prone to develop this condition.

Several types of bunion treatment can provide pain relief. Foot specialists Laura Schweger, DPM, and Evan Ross, DPM, of Optima Foot and Ankle in Bend, Oregon, have the knowledge and expertise to determine the most appropriate bunion treatment to improve function and appearance while reducing discomfort.

Based on the condition of your bunion, one or more of the following treatments may improve your condition:

Modify your footwear

Conservative treatment for bunions is intended to reduce discomfort and inflammation. It can also help improve function by reducing symptoms to allow more pain-free movement. Some treatments can also help prevent further deformity.

Bunions affect 10 times as many women as men. Women may be more susceptible to the condition as a result of wearing pointed-toe high heel shoes. Wearing this type of shoe positions your feet in an unnatural position by forcing your toes into a narrow space.

Wearing different shoes may help you achieve immediate relief from bunion pain. Choosing shoes with a deep and wide toe box can help prevent friction between the side of your foot and your bunion.

You can also use shoe inserts, taping, and custom orthotics to achieve pain relief. These devices position your foot to evenly distribute pressure when you walk, reducing the amount of pressure that falls on your bunion. As an alternative, you can use a nighttime splint to hold your toe straight.

Moleskin or gel-filled bunion padding provides a cushion between your foot and your shoe. This type of barrier can also limit the big toe from chafing against your second toe.

Try pain-relieving treatments

Depending on the condition and severity of your bunion, you may be able to achieve relief from one or more pain-relieving treatments.

Over-the-counter pain medications such as acetaminophen or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which include ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen, can ease the pain. If these medications don’t help, a cortisone injection may relieve discomfort.

Warm soaks or ice packs can help relieve swelling and soreness. Ultrasound, whirlpool, or massage may also help. When these pain-relieving treatments don’t work, you may benefit from a cortisone injection.

Practice recommended exercises

By targeting affected muscles with exercises, you can help reduce pain and promote a return to normal walking. You may benefit from the following exercises that can help improve bunion symptoms:

  • Golf ball roll: Roll a golf ball under your arch for two minutes while seated.
  • Towel curls: Use your toes to practice picking up a small towel.
  • Marble pickup: Place marbles on the ground, then use your toes to pick them up one at a time and drop them into a bowl.

Undergo bunion removal surgery

If you don’t achieve improved symptoms from conservative nonsurgical treatments, bunion surgery may provide the results you desire. Most types of bunion surgery involve a bunionectomy, which is the removal of the portion of your bone that sticks out from your foot.

Depending on the procedure used, your big toe joint may or may not be realigned to its normal position. If appropriate, an artificial implant or joint may be used to correct your foot.

While recovery from bunion surgery can be lengthy, with full recovery taking from six weeks to six months, it typically results in improved appearance and function after healing.

If you have a bunion, don’t delay in getting an evaluation. Schedule a visit by calling 541-383-3668, or request an appointment online.

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