How Effectively Can We Treat Bunions?

by | Apr 25, 2019

A bunion is one of those conditions that some people feel they just have to endure “as is” for the rest of their lives. It has been a rotten companion for years or even decades, so what can really be done about the matter now?

The answer, in fact, can be quite a lot. And if a bunion is discovered in its earlier stages, that’s even better!

Something can almost always be done to improve the quality of life of someone who suffers from bunion pain and discomfort. Many of the options that are available to a patient depend largely on the stage of a bunion’s progression and the patient’s lifestyle.

Can a Bunion Be Reversed?

If by “reversed” you mean naturally returning the joint of the big toe to its original position, then the answer is an unfortunate “no.”

When the big toe shifts, it is almost always a permanent movement. The only way to provide correction is through surgery. There is nothing in the form you might find like braces for the teeth to straighten the toe back to its original position.

But non-surgical methods of bunion treatment are far from insignificant. When it comes to conservative influences on a bunion, there are two main goals in mind:

  • Lessen or fully relieve any pain or discomfort being caused by the bunion.
  • Prevent further progression of the bunion by any reasonable means possible.

Depending on the case, these goals can have different priorities and effectiveness.

If Your Bunion is in the Early Stages

The earlier a bunion is detected in life, the more that can be done to conservatively slow its progression. In some cases, further movement of the joint can be effectively halted.

Early detection of a bunion is crucial to an ideal outcome such as this, so never hesitate to raise the question of whether you are seeing the early stages of one. Although a bunion tends to be thought of as an “adult” condition, the shifting can start as early as childhood—and yes, this can happen without high heels or tight shoes ever being worn! There are hereditary factors at play when it comes to who is more susceptible to bunions, so keep an eye on your child’s feet if bunions run in your family.

What kinds of treatments and choices can help prevent further progression of a bunion? These can include:

  • Changes in footwear. High heels and shoes with small, cramped toe boxes get a bad rap for causing bunions. The jury is still out on that specifically, but they nonetheless deserve a bad rap for making existing bunions worse! Switching to shoes that provide a better fit and more space for the toes can be very beneficial over time.
  • Custom orthotics. In some cases, a bunion may be exacerbated by an abnormal foot structure placing excess pressure toward the front of the foot. Custom orthotic inserts can provide cushioning and support where needed to remove this excess stress from the area of the bunion.
  • Weight reduction. If necessary, reducing excess weight can take even further overall pressure off the unstable toe joint.
  • Night splints. Under professional guidance, a night splint may be worn while sleeping to hold the toe straight. This can help relieve discomfort in addition to lessening progression.
  • Stretches and foot exercises. By strengthening the muscles and tissues surrounding the affected joint, additional stability can be provided.

With such measures in place, a bunion that is detected early might never become much of a problem at all.

If Your Bunion is In Later Stages

When a bunion has progressed so far as to be a consistent source of discomfort, more measures will likely have to be taken to guard against complications and pain.

While the treatments discussed above may still come into play, additional treatments may include:

  • Protective pads. Pads made of moleskin or filled with gel can protect areas of a bunion from rubbing up against the inside of a shoe, causing pain, calluses, or corns.
  • Home-based ice therapy (simply applying ice to a bunion for about 15 minutes several times per day) can help reduce pain and swelling when needed.
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory pain medications. A self-explanatory measure, but we can help you determine the best medications and dosages for your needs.

What About Bunion Surgery?

When conservative measures are not providing the amount of relief needed for a patient, or the bunion is so severe that conservative measures will clearly have little effect, then surgery becomes a consideration.

The most common goals of bunion surgery are to reduce pain and restore lost mobility. Having bunion surgery “just to restore a nice appearance” is very rare and often not recommended.

There are many surgical procedures for bunion correction. Some involve reshaping the bone, while others might lengthen, shorten, or repair soft tissues that surround the joint. Which procedure(s) are necessary for a specific case depend on different circumstances and needs.

If surgery is a consideration for you, we will be sure to discuss all the factors that would be involved before, during, and after the procedure, as well as answer any questions you may have. We want all our patients to make such an important decision with all the information they need to do so comfortably.

Bunion Treatment in Ebensburg and Johnstown

No matter how long you have had a bunion, don’t just grit your teeth and endure it without any help. Dr. Barra, Dr. Ratchford and our staff have the expertise and tools to help you find relief.

Give us a call at (814) 472-2660 to schedule an appointment at one of our offices. If you prefer to contact us electronically, you can also reach us via our online contact form.

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