Bunions are painful and unsightly, and incredibly common. About a quarter of all adults suffer from bunions (me included). But is surgery the only option for relieving bunion pain? I’ve had quite a few surgeries and just can’t get on board for yet another one, so I treat my bunion pain with home treatments to relieve the pain. In this post, I’ll discuss the many different, and inexpensive products and methods you can use to relieve bunion pain and either delay or avoid surgery altogether.
How to Delay or Avoid Surgery for Bunions and Get Bunion Pain Relief
Bunions are bony bumps that form on the joint at the base of the big toe. Sometimes, you can get what is called a bunionette on the joint at the base of the small toe.
Bunions form when the big toe gets pushed against the next toe. This constant squishing forces the joint of the big toe to get bigger and bigger, and stick out from the rest of the foot. Bunions can get sore and hurt, too. They can rub up against the sides of your shoes, irritating the skin.
Those who are susceptible to getting bunions have structural issues with the foot. When people who are at-risk for getting bunions wear ill-fitting shoes, then bunions can start to form over many years from exposure to incorrect footwear.
High heels, narrow shoes, and shoes with pointy, small toe boxes are the biggest culprits when it comes to bunion formation. High heels force the foot downward, which squishes the toes into too small of an area. Over time, the toes push up against each other, and the joint below the big toe starts to jut out, forming a bunion. Sometimes, the foot can become stressed from arthritis which can cause a bunion to develop, too. It’s not always genetics or ill-fitting shoes which can cause bunions. In my case, genetics were not on my side as my grandmother had them.
When the toes overlap from a bunion, you can also get corns and callouses on the foot. Persistent, intermittent pain is common with bunions, and if arthritis is causing your bunion, you might find movement in your big toe restricted.
Is surgery the only course of action for fixing bunions or relieving bunion pain?
No, but if you don’t take corrective measures, you might have to go under the knife at some point for bunions. If you’re suffering from painful bunions, the first thing you need to do is wear better shoes. Ditch the high heels, which can crowd the toes and cause them to overlap. Choose shoes that have a roomy toe box and that aren’t too narrow. A podiatrist can also help you obtain shoes that are designed for your specific foot needs.
The following products can also give you some much-need pain relief from bunions and keep them from worsening.
Bunions splints are lightweight, breathable, and non-invasive devices that can help realign the toes and give you pain relief in the process. Wearing a bunion splint will help keep the bunions from getting worse and rubbing against the sides of your shoes. Bunion splints can be worn during the day or at night, and most designs will fit inside of socks and shoes, so wearing them won’t restrict your activities. You can buy bunion splints from Amazon and many larger pharmacies.
You can also find bunion splints that separate each toe. Toe separator bunion splints are good to use if your second or third toes are starting to get misaligned because of a bunion. This product has holes in the bottom of the splint that prevents moisture and bacteria from building up. It’s also good to use on hard floors because the holes prevent slipping, and you can wear the toe separator at home during the day without restricting any of your normal activities.
Bunion correctors are similar to bunion splints. They work by pulling the big toe away from the second toe, preventing calluses from forming and stabilizing the foot arch. Bunion correctors are mostly worn at night, but you can find lighter-weight options that allow you to wear them during the day while you go about your normal activities. I have only used the kind that are worn at night and have gotten pain relief from bunions.
Bunion pads are designed to be worn all day inside of your shoes. They go directly over the bunion and prevent friction and skin irritation to give you pain relief. They don’t necessarily work to realign the bunion, like bunion splints or bunion correctors, but for daytime activities, bunion pads are non-invasive and can be worn all day. Any pharmacy should carry them.
Bunion braces are heavy-duty devices that aren’t designed for daytime wear or anytime you have to move around a lot. They are best worn at night while you’re sleeping. Braces force the big toe back into position with an aluminum bar that is thickly padded inside an adjustable device with thick, firm Velcro straps. Braces are designed to be comfortable enough to wear for many hours, just not during the day.
What happens if you ignore bunions?
If you don’t take any corrective measures, bunions get worse. They don’t simply go away on their own. Failure to take any action can result in the following painful conditions:
Bursitis happens when the small, fluid-filled pads, or bursae, that cushion the bones, tendons, and muscles in your feet become inflamed and swollen.
Hammertoe is an abnormal bend in the middle of the toe joint that causes severe pain and pressure in the feet. When it comes to bunions, usually the second toe becomes a painful hammertoe from being pushed into an unnatural position.
Metatarsalgia is when pain and inflammation happen in the balls of the feet. Metatarsalgia can cause shooting pains with every step.
All three of these conditions can lead to reduced mobility and quality of life. If you have bunions now, it’s crucial that you take the necessary steps to prevent them from worsening and leading to other complications. If you're able to stop bunions in their early stages, you can avoid surgery. Fortunately, bunion splints, correctors, braces, and pads are inexpensive, effective options for bunion pain relief and for delaying or preventing the need for costly interventions later.