Bunions 一 officially known as hallux valgus 一 are bony bumps that form on your metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint. These bumps on your big toe joints aren’t just painful; they can also affect your self-esteem, especially when you’re barefoot or wearing strappy sandals.
To compound matters, bunions can worsen over time, so it’s important not to postpone treatment. Aamir Mahmood, DPM, and our team here at Momentum Foot & Ankle Clinic diagnose and treat bunions in our Lombard, Illinois, office and our Chesterton and Michigan City, Indiana offices.
Bunions can respond well to both conservative and surgical treatments. Read on to learn about seven conservative ways to ease bunion pain and when to consider surgical interventions.
Take over-the-counter pain relief medication
Pain and inflammation near your big toe joint are two common bunion symptoms. Over-the-counter medication, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), can reduce the pain and inflammation associated with bunions. Common NSAIDs include ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen, but none are recommended for long-term use or people with certain chronic conditions or salicylate sensitivity.
In other words, NSAIDs may help manage pain in the short term, but if your pain isn’t controlled, let us know. That may be a sign that surgery is a better solution for you.
Try a cold compress
Cold therapy works well for many injuries, especially when swelling is present. Cold compresses reduce swelling by constricting blood vessels. You can soak your feet in a cool bath or simply apply cold packs to your feet. Always place a tea towel between the ice pack and your skin to avoid damaging your skin.
Tip: Elevating your feet can also help bring down swelling. With your feet propped up, set your ice pack on top for an even more anti-inflammatory kick.
Try heat therapy
While cold therapy constricts blood vessels and combats swelling, heat therapies help to relax sore muscles or joints. Heat therapy improves blood flow 一 ideal if your feet are cramping. Soak your feet in a warm bath or even a whirlpool.
Stretch your feet daily
Exercising your feet can greatly reduce pain, improve foot mobility, and help prevent your bunion from worsening. Bunion exercises include toe points and curls, picking up marbles with your toes, heel raises, and barefoot walking on the beach — a perfect excuse to visit Lake Michigan!
Orthotics can be a game-changer when it comes to easing bunion pain. While orthotics won’t cure bunions, these custom-made medical devices help slow bunions’ progression. Orthotics can greatly improve your comfort when walking or wearing shoes.
- Reduce pain in your toe joint
- Correct flat feet (which can add pressure on your toe joint)
- Redistribute your weight
In addition to orthotics, you may also find that wearing a night splint is beneficial. While orthotics are worn inside your shoes, night splints stretch out your joint while you sleep.
Change your shoes
Sometimes a simple change, such as swapping out your shoes, is enough to make a big difference in your day-to-day comfort. If you have bunions, look for shoes with the following:
- A wide-toe box
- A firm yet cushioned sole
- No heel (or at least, a very low heel)
Many people with bunions also find that adding gel pads or moleskin patches to their shoes helps to avoid rubbing or friction.
When to consider surgery
Surgery isn’t often the first line of defense against bunions, but you might consider it if you’ve already tried conservation methods with little (or no) relief, if your symptoms are severe, and if your bunions are impacting your quality of life.
Although surgery aims to improve your symptoms and eliminate bunion pain, surgery also enhances the look of your toes, which is a plus if you’re bothered by the bony protrusion.
To explore the possibilities of surgery, call Dr. Mahmood today. Whether you need surgery or not, we can get you started on the path to relief. You can also request an appointment online.