Bunions (hallux valgus) are very painful deformities of the soft tissue and bones of the big toe joint. The term, bunion, comes from the French word for “bump”. When you have a bunion, you have a big bump at the base of your big toe. When this condition occurs on your little toe, it is called a tailor bunion. What can you do about this painful condition? Do you have to have surgery? In this article, we share some simple effective ways to help you cope with bunion pain. Read on to learn more.
Begin With Good Shoes
One of the main things you can do to ease bunion pain is to wear properly fitted shoes. Look for high quality shoes with good support and a nice roomy toe box to give your toes room to spread out. Avoid pointy toed shoes and high-heeled shoes. It’s a good idea to have your shoes fitted by your podiatrist or visit an athletic shoe store where the staff is trained in measuring and fitting shoes correctly.
Give Your Feet Good Attention At Home
Once you have set yourself up with some good footwear, use these tips to lessen your bunion pain even more:
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- Shoe inserts can be used to pad the bunion and also to provide more support to your arches and/or to the ball of your foot. Gel-filled, silicone, foam, neoprene or moleskin bunion pads can help relieve the pressure on painful bunions. Providing good support to the soles of your feet helps position your feet correctly to prevent further damage and pain.
- Toe spacers can be used while you’re resting and/or while you are sleeping. Silicone toe spacing devices placed between your toes while you watch TV, read or take a bath can help spread your toes and ease pain and pressure. Toe spacing socks worn while you sleep at night can help a great deal in stretching your feet properly and relieving pain.
- Analgesic creams, gels and stick on pads can provide topical pain relief. Look for over-the-counter pain relieving products at your local drugstore. Effective ingredients include menthol, Arnica, horse chestnut and capsaicin. Pain relief pads containing these ingredients or Lidocaine can be cut to size and held in place with strips of athletic tape.
- Resting your feet is an extremely effective way to relieve foot pain. Be sure to kick off your shoes and elevate your feet as often is you can. This not only relieves pressure, but also helps improve circulation.
- Ice packs applied while you’re resting can help relieve swelling and inflammation. Be sure to wear socks or use a towel between the icepack and your foot and move the pack around a bit to avoid frostbite. Don’t apply an ice pack for longer than 15 minutes at a time.
- An old-fashioned foot soak is a great way to relieve pain and swelling and rest your feet. Use cool or warm water as you prefer, or alternate. Add a bit of Epsom salts and essential oils such as oil of lavender for a very relaxing and pleasant experience.
- Bunions splints worn overnight can help hold your toe in a straightened position. This may help relieve some pain and pressure. Talk with your doctor or podiatrist to make the right choice in a bunion splint.
- Over-the-counter pain relieving anti-inflammatory drugs such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen or aspirin can help relieve generalized pain in your feet.
- A massaging foot spa is a wonderful treat that can help relieve pain, relax your feet and rejuvenate your whole body.
- Exercise regularly and maintain a healthy weight. Staying in good shape generally and keeping your weight down helps relieve and prevent pain in your feet.
Focused Foot Exercise Can Be Helpful
You may think that you need bunion surgery, but you may be surprised to find that regular foot exercises can go a long way toward relieving pain and improving the general condition of your feet. It’s not possible to heal a bunion, but it is possible to reduce the pain and improve flexibility so much that surgery is not necessary. Before you go in for surgery, give these simple exercises a try:
1. Point and flex your toes to stretch the muscles, tendons and ligaments; improve flexibility and strengthen your arches. To perform this exercise, curl your toes under and squeeze them tight for five seconds and then flex them up and stretch for another five seconds. Repeat this exercise 10 times at least twice a day.
2. Resistance can help strengthen and limber up your toes. Press the undersides of your toes against a wall and press hard for about 10 seconds. Release, wiggle your toes and repeat the exercise 3 to 5 times. Do this a couple of times a day.
3. Massage helps relieve tension, limbers up muscles, tendons and ligaments and strengthens your feet. You can use your fingers to perform deep massage and/or simply place a golf ball or tennis ball on the floor in front of you as you sit and roll your feet over the ball. Do this at least twice a day for two or three minutes or as often as you like.
4. Pick things up with your toes! Picking up objects such as marbles or pebbles and moving them from one place to another with your toes is a great way to make your toes stronger and more flexible. You can also use your toes to pull a towel or other rough cloth towards you on the floor. Just lay it flat in front of you and scrunch it up with your toes to pull it into a heap under your feet.
5. Walk barefoot on sand whenever you can. Sand provides a gentle, natural massage to the soles of your feet and helps realign the natural bone structure of your feet. This is very helpful for people who have foot pain due to arthritis.
Perform your foot exercises at least twice a day (morning and night). It’s also a good idea to do these exercises along with other light and easy exercises as you watch television, read, work at your desk or do otherwise sedentary activities.
This video provides a few more good ideas for foot exercises to help alleviate bunion pain.
What If Natural Solutions Don’t Help?
If you give all of these ideas a good try by practicing them regularly for a couple of months or so and you’re still experiencing bunion pain, you’ll need to see your doctor. Bunion surgery may be necessary. Some of your choices in bunion surgery include:
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- Damaged Joint Removal (Re-Sectional Arthroplasty)
- Bunion Bump Removal (Exostectomy)
- Bone Realignment (Osteotomy)
- Joint Fusion (Arthrodesis)
When you speak with your doctor be sure to discuss all of the important aspects of the procedure so that you can make an informed and comfortable decision. For example, you should ask about the benefits and risks of the treatment; the amount of time and effort involved in recovery; methods used for management of postoperative pain and final results. Your doctor will help you determine whether you would be wiser to continue, adjust and expand your natural therapies or move forward with surgery.