What is a Bunion Splint?

R.G. Blake

A bunion splint is an orthopedic device typically used to treat hallux valgus, a foot problem also known as a bunion. A bunion is an enlargement of bone or tissue around the joint at the base of the big toe. It can be painful and sometimes even can be debilitating. Typically, the only way to cure it is through surgery, but it is treatable.

A bunion is typically treated with surgery.
A bunion is typically treated with surgery.

Bunion splints can relieve bunion pain and help patients better manage their condition. Most splints work by separating the first and second toes. Used properly, it can redistribute the pressure on the foot and help maintain proper alignment of the toes and the foot. It also can take some of the pressure off the bunion itself. A bunion splint also can be used after bunion surgery to protect the area where the bunion has been removed.

Various types, sizes, and designs of bunion splints are available. Some even come with antibacterial coating to limit foot odor and infection. While one readily can purchase a bunion splint on the Internet or in a drug store, it usually is advisable to first seek advice from a medical professional.

A bunion night splint is, as the name suggests, worn at night. They come in various materials, shapes, and sizes. Many are very rigid, but some are more flexible. Day splints generally are less cumbersome than their nighttime counterparts. They usually can be worn with shoes, but some individuals may need a larger size of shoe to accommodate the splint.

Getting rid of a bunion is not as easy as simply wearing a bunion splint. Primarily a palliative measure, it addresses the symptoms and helps reduce pain. Padding inside the shoe often help as well, provided the bunion is small. Some clinicians may recommend physical therapy.

When a bunion is inflamed or painful, applying ice several times a day can alleviate pain and swelling. Acetaminophen can help control the pain of a bunion, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like ibuprofen, can relieve inflammation, as well. Cortisone injections may be recommended by some doctors, while serious cases may require bunion surgery.

Bunions are far more common in women than in men. They sometimes run in families and can be caused by arthritis. Bunions often can be caused by wearing shoes that are too tight or with heels that are too high. Wearing more comfortable shoes with lower heels can relieve some of the discomfort and sometimes even prevent bunions from developing.

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