A bunion is a very common foot ailment in which an inflamed, often painful, bump appears at the base of the big toe. Excessive pressure, arthritis, a foot injury, or a congenital bone disorder can lead to a deformity of the joint, causing the big toe to point inwards towards the other toes on the foot. Individuals can usually accomplish bunion care at home by wearing more comfortable shoes, applying ice to reduce swelling, and using pads, medical tape, or shoe inserts to cushion the bump. If home treatments are ineffective at relieving foot pain, a person should contact his or her podiatrist to learn about custom orthotics and surgical procedures.
For many people, the most effective method for bunion care is simply wearing loose-fitting, relaxed shoes when leaving the house. Most bunions are caused by wearing tight, inflexible, or high-heeled shoes, and avoiding this type of footwear is often enough to reduce tension and pressure. In addition, podiatrists often recommend using ice packs several times a day to lessen swelling and help numb the pain. Over-the-counter painkillers and anti-inflammatory medications can further reduce symptoms.
Many pharmacies, supermarkets, and online retailers sell shoe inserts and pads specifically designed for bunion care. Shoe inserts that are made of foam or gel provide extra cushioning and prevent shoes from rubbing on bunions. Tape, bandages, and pads that wrap around the bunion can also help cushion the joint as well as lessen the size of a bunion. Special padded inserts called spacers can be placed between the toes to help realign the big toe. By relieving tension on the joint, most bunions disappear within one to two months.
A bunion that is extremely painful or persistent should be inspected by a licensed podiatrist. A doctor can inspect the bunion, determine the cause of the deformity, and recommend appropriate treatment. In many cases, custom orthotic shoes or shoe inserts are needed to correct the problem. Some inserts are made of hard foam and work to support the arch of the foot, which takes tension off of the big toe joint when walking or running. In the case of severe pain and swelling, the doctor might choose to inject the joint with cortisone.
Some bunions are large and painful enough to require surgery. The most common bunion care surgery is a bunionectomy, in which the inflamed tissue on the side of the toe is cut away. A deformed toe may need to be realigned by removing bone tissue and manually setting the joint back into place. Following bunion care surgery, the podiatrist usually prescribes orthotics and instructs the patient to return for regular checkups to make sure the toe heals properly.