bunion treatment

Bunions: What Causes Them, Treatment and Prevention

Walk In Comfort Again

A bunion, also called hallux valgus, is a bony bump that grows on the inside of the foot at the joint of the big toe. A bunion characteristically presents as a protruding lump on the joint of the big toe that causes redness, swelling and pain. Additionally, a bunion may reduce the range of motion of the toes, especially the big toe.

What Causes Bunions?

Bunions can be triggered by various factors including:

  • Improper Footwear: In particular, wearing narrow shoes with a pointy toe box puts the toes into an unnatural position. Additionally, high heels worsen the issue because they tip the body’s weight forward, pushing the toes toward the front of your shoes.
  • Prolonged Standing or Walking: Individuals in occupations that require prolonged standing or walking are at an increased risk of developing bunions.
  • Genetic Factors: Some people are prone to developing bunions due to their bone structure and function, including flat feet, low arches, loose tendons and joints.
  • Inflammatory Conditions: Certain inflammatory conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis, increase the risk of developing bunions.
  • Neuromuscular Conditions: Certain neuromuscular conditions, including polio, increase the risk of developing bunions.

How to Shrink Bunions Naturally

There are a variety of things you can try to shrink bunions and ease bunion pain, including:

  • Applying Ice: Icing your bunion for 10 to 15 minutes at a time can help to reduce swelling and ease pain.
  • Changing Footwear: Opting for comfortable footwear that is wide, with a low heel and soft sole decreases pressure on the big toe.
  • Using Bunion Pads: Using non-medicated bunion pads can help ease bunion pain by providing a protective barrier between your shoe and foot, preventing friction and reducing irritation of the bunion.
  • Using Padded Shoe Inserts: Placing inserts into your shoes can help to distribute pressure evenly as you walk by controlling foot alignment issues, which can help to ease bunion pain. Shoe inserts are available both over-the-counter and by prescription.
  • Taking Medications: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication, including Motrin, Advil and Aleve, as well as pain killers, including Tylenol can help to reduce swelling and ease pain associated with bunions. If these medications fail to provide pain relief, cortisone injections may be beneficial.
  • Trying Alternative Therapies: Physical therapy, massage therapy and ultrasound therapy can help to break up soft tissue adhesions helping to reduce swelling and providing bunion pain relief. Additionally, mobilization of the foot can help to improve the function of the foot, ankle and big toe by strengthening the joints and muscles in and around the affected joint.
  • Performing Home Exercises: Regularly performing exercises to improve the strength of the muscles around the bunion can help to improve foot alignment and increase the range of motion of the affected joint.
  • Losing Extra Weight: If you’re carrying extra weight, losing some weight can help to decrease swelling and ease bunion pain by decreasing pressure on the joints of the foot.

How to Get Rid of Bunions

If conservative treatment options fail to provide relief, bunion surgery (bunionectomy) may be necessary. It’s important to keep in mind that surgery is not recommended for cosmetic reasons alone, but rather when a bunion is causing severe symptoms, worsening or interfering with your ability to perform daily activities.

There are various bunion surgery options, some may be done alone while others are done in combination. Bunion surgery treatment options include:

  • Removing the swollen tissue surrounding the joint of the big toe.
  • Straightening the big toe with partial bone removal.
  • Re-aligning bones to a normal position in the forefoot in an attempt to correct the abnormal angle of the big toe joint.
  • Fusing the bones of the affected joint.

While you can walk on your foot shortly after bunion surgery, full recovery may take weeks to months. To prevent the bunion from recurring, you’ll have to wear appropriate footwear.

As with any surgery, some issues can arise following bunion surgery, including:

  • The bunion may come back.
  • The bunion surgery doesn’t fully correct the problem or it overcorrects the issue and your toe now points inward.
  • The bunion pain continues.
  • The movement of your big toe joint is worsened.


Bunions are a common problem, with up to a third of Americans suffering from this foot deformity. With appropriate treatment including maintaining an ideal weight, applying ice to the area, wearing proper footwear, using bunion pads and padded shoe inserts and taking medications such as anti-inflammatory and pain medications, bunion swelling and pain can often be controlled. In some cases, physical therapy and massage therapy, combined with home exercises, can help to provide further pain relief and improve foot function. However, if you have severe bunion symptoms, your bunion is getting worse or if it’s interfering with your ability to perform your activities of daily living, bunion surgery may be necessary to remove the bunion and correct the alignment of the joints of the foot.

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