How to get rid of a bunion

by Nathan Wei, MD, FACP, FACR

Nathan Wei is a nationally known board-certified rheumatologist and author of the Second Opinion Arthritis Treatment Kit. It's available exclusively at this website... not available in stores.

Click here: Second Opinion Arthritis Treatment Kit

A bunion is an enlargement of the joint at the base of the big toe, the metatarsalphalangeal (MTP) joint.

It forms when the big toe joint moves out of place as a result of osteoarthritis. This causes the toe to bend toward the others, leading to a painful lump of bone on the foot. Bursitis adjacent to the joint also develops.

As a result, bunions can cause extreme pain. The MTP joint itself may become stiff and sore, making the wearing of shoes difficult. Bunions can also occur on the outside of the foot along the little toe, where it is called a "bunionette" or "tailor’s bunion."

•Development of a bump on the outside edge of the foot, at the base of the big toe.
•Redness, swelling, or pain at or near the MTP joint.
•Corns, blisters, and calluses caused by the overlap of the first and second toes.
•Restricted or painful motion of the big toe.

Bunions form when the normal balance of forces exerted on the joints and tendons of the foot becomes deranged. This leads to instability in the joint and causes deformity. Years of abnormal motion and pressure over the MTP joint due to abnormal foot development, walking, poorly fitting shoes, and other factors all lead to bunion formation.

Bunions tend to run in families.

Other causes of bunions are foot injuries, neuromuscular disorders, or congenital deformities. People who suffer from flat feet or low arches are also prone to developing these problems, as are arthritic patients and those with inflammatory joint disease. Occupations that place undue stress on the feet are also a factor; ballet dancers, for instance, often develop the condition.

Wearing shoes that are too tight or cause the toes to be pushed together is also a factor, one that explains the high prevalence of the disorder among women.

Some relief can be obtained by...

•Applying a commercial, non-medicated bunion pad around the bony prominence.
•Wearing shoes with a wide and deep toe box.
•Applying ice packs several times a day to reduce swelling.
•Avoiding high-heeled shoes over two inches tall.

Treatment options vary with the type and severity of each bunion. Identifying the deformity early is important to avoid surgery. Left untreated, bunions tend to get larger and more painful, making non-surgical treatment less of an option.

The primary goal of most early treatment options is to relieve pressure on the bunion and halt the progression of the joint deformity.

Often the first step in a treatment plan, padding the bunion, minimizes pain and allows the patient to continue a normal, active life. Taping helps keep the foot in a normal position, thus reducing stress and pain.

•Medication Anti-inflammatory drugs and cortisone injections are often prescribed to ease the acute pain and inflammations caused by joint deformities.

•Physical Therapy
Often used to provide relief of the inflammation and from bunion pain. Ultrasound therapy is a popular technique for treating bunions and their associated soft tissue involvement.

Shoe inserts may be useful in controlling foot function and may reduce symptoms and prevent worsening of the deformity.

When early treatments fail, surgery may become necessary to relieve pressure and repair the toe joint.

Get more information about how to get rid of a bunion and related issues as well as...

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