Bunions – or for those who have them, the painful, bony nuisances that form at the big toe joint – are a common foot condition for older people, especially women. While surgical intervention can sometimes help those with debilitating bunions, lifestyle changes and effective management strategies can help you avoid a bunionectomy in many cases.
Moreover, surgeries are usually only necessary if your bunions cause regular functional and mobility problems and chronic pain, which is often not the case.
Let’s look at the causes and symptoms of bunions and explore how you can manage them without invasive measures.
Symptoms of Bunions
Bunions protrude from the side of your big toe, forming an “L” shape angle. Additional symptoms of bunions include:
- More corns and calluses than you would normally have due to the big toe rubbing against the second toe
- Mild redness, pain, and swelling
- Limited movement in the big toe
Severe bunions can cause overlapping toes, pain that doesn’t subside, and toe angulation of more than 40 degrees.
Causes of Bunions
The main culprit? The wrong shoes!
Wearing high heels may make you feel good about yourself aesthetically, but they can damage your physical health over time and are one of the main causes of bunions in women. Narrow, tight, and pointed shoes (often the design of stilettos and other types of heels) squeeze and push your toes together and forward unnaturally, increasing pressure on the big toe and leading to bunion formation.
Having another condition that targets the joints, like osteoarthritis or Rheumatoid arthritis, or one that causes an abnormal gait, like flat feet, can also hint at bunions in your future. Activities where your toes are more vulnerable than the rest of your feet, like dancing, may also be a risk factor.
Bunions: Management Strategies
You can tackle a mild bunion problem from home and with regular visits to the chiropodist. Here are some of the best ways you can prevent bunions from ruining your day or getting worse:
- Change your footwear: Ditch the high heels for comfortable alternatives and shoes with extra room in the toe box. If you’re not sure where to start, attend a shoe fitting.
- Try bunion splints or aligners. They can hold the affected joint in place.
- Therapeutic taping can help hold the joint in place and temporarily relieve pain.
- Shoe stretching may help secure more room in the toe box and take pressure off the bunion.
- Try these 5 simple exercises for bunions. They are relatively easy, low-impact, and don’t require exercise equipment.
- Get custom orthotics. Orthotics might reduce excess pressure on the big toe joint and correct any biomechanical issues that are contributing to your bunions (plus they’re also super comfortable!).
- Ask about shockwave therapy. This innovative, non-invasive, and quick procedure is an effective management strategy for bone and joint conditions. It can help relieve pain caused by muscle tightness around the bunion.
It’s important to remember that bunions don’t disappear like other conditions sometimes do. But successfully practicing these treatment methods can help you avoid surgery.
If you suspect your bunions are too severe for these strategies, speak to your family doctor.