Dealing With Bunions
For people who haven’t experienced them, bunions may seem like a minor inconvenience. However, People suffering from this condition often find that they can be very serious, even presenting a mobility problem for many people. Prevention is the best cure for bunions, but there are treatment options for people who have developed them as well. In any case, getting treatment as early as possible will prevent you from severe pain later in life.
What Are Bunions?
A Bunions is essentially a “bony growth” on the foot. They most commonly occur at the base of the big toe, but they can sometimes happen on the outside of the foot under the little toe. They occur when the metatarsal bone in the foot grows out of alignment with the other bones. This will sometimes push the affected toe inward, where it may overlap with interior toes in severe cases.
Bunions most commonly form in people who wear shoes that are too narrow. The constant constriction and pressure placed on the toe can cause the metatarsal to become deformed. Women are more likely to get bunions than men due to the shape of women’s dress shoes. Any narrow or pointed-toe shoe can cause bunions, but high heels are the worst offenders. Flat shoes allow a person’s weight to be distributed evenly throughout the foot, but high heels force the weight forward.
People who work in office settings or high fashion may be at a particular risk of developing bunions due to the expectation to wear certain types of dress shoes. Anyone who wears narrow-toed shoes is at risk, however, and some people are genetically predisposed to them due to the shape of their feet. If you have a family history of bunions, you should be careful to avoid the risk factors of bunions whenever possible.
Bunions generally become worse over time, and the only way to permanently correct them once they’ve formed is surgical intervention. If they’re caught early, however, you may be able to train the bones back into a more natural shape. You can ask your podiatrist for recommended treatments. These may include foot braces or other devices that hold the toe in a natural angle and encourage healthy bone growth.
Here are a few other treatments that can help you relieve the pain of bunions:
- Proper Shoes - Once you’ve identified ill-fitting shoes as the cause of your bunions, it’s important to stop wearing the offenders. Shop carefully to find shoes that provide plenty of space and adequate padding for your toes. You may want something with a square toe are rather than a rounded one to give your feet plenty of room. Some shoes even come with specially-built “bunion boxes” that provide extra space for the sides of your feet.
- Try a Cold Compress - If your bunions are swollen and painful, applying ice may help ease the swelling. Use an ice pack in 10 to 15 minute intervals until the swelling subsides. You could also use a heating pad if the ice was not effective.
- Soak Your Foot - Epsom salt is helpful as a way to reduce pain and swelling. Simply mix the salt in warm water as directed on the package and soak your foot. In addition to reducing the swelling around the affected area, the soak may soothe the tired ligaments in the rest of your foot. You can follow up the soak with a massage to get the most out of this treatment.
- Use a Toe Separator - A device recommended by a podiatrist will be the most effective method of re-training your toe into a healthy angle, but over-the-counter solutions are available as well. The toe separator can help keep your big toe from rubbing on the adjacent toes, and it may prevent the bunion from worsening. Specialized booties made for bunion sufferers work similarly. Just be sure to choose one that will be comfortable and doesn’t hold your toe at an awkward angle.
- Use an Anti-Inflammatory - If you need to reduce the swelling in your bunions for a specific event, such as a wedding or sports event, taking an over-the-counter medication like ibuprofen might be a good choice. If you find yourself reaching for painkillers on a more frequent basis, though, you should consult with a doctor for a more permanent solution.
Bunion removal surgery is a simple outpatient procedure. The doctor will make an incision at the base of the big toe and remove or re-align the bone. In most cases, this is completed while the patient is awake through the use of local anesthetic. This reduces the risks associated with surgery and keeps the procedure fairly affordable.
It takes approximately four to six weeks to fully recover from bunion surgery, but many patients are able to walk normally within just a few days. Be sure to follow any post-operative instructions provided by your doctor to promote proper healing.
Bunions are uncomfortable, but they can be prevented with proper foot care. If you do begin to develop them, you can confer with a podiatrist to choose the best treatment option for your needs. By understanding your condition, you can save yourself from pain and foot deformity later in life.