Understanding Bunions and Non-Surgical Treatments

What is a Bunion?

A bunion is a bony and painful bump that develops, often on the side of the biggest or smallest toes. Bunions can have many causes, such as wearing tight or narrowed shoes, or they can be a result of natural foot shapes, foot deformities, or other medical conditions. A bunion is caused when the bone at the front of the foot has pressure applied over time, leading the bone to shift in place and causes a misalignment among two of the bones in the toe. The joint between the two misaligned bones then becomes inflamed and protrudes.

What are the symptoms of a bunion?

Bunions are often quite painful and tender. They can often appear red with inflammation as well. A callus or corn can often develop on the bunion bump due to rubbing from shoes.

How is a bunion diagnosed?

If you believe you may have a bunion, the first step is to book a doctor’s appointment to have it examined. The doctor will often request x-rays to be performed to ensure that the bump is in fact a bunion. X-rays will be taken of the foot while both standing and sitting to visualize the extent of bone misalignment and severity of the bunion.

What are the risk factors?

The footwear you choose can play role in your risk of developing a bunion. High heels and ill-fitted shoes that are too narrow or pointed can cause the foot and toes to be unnaturally situated and lead to bone misalignment causing a bunion. Other factors that may increase your risk include hereditary problems with foot anatomy or inflammatory disease such as rheumatoid arthritis.

Bunion nonsurgical treatments

Bunions cannot be reversed by non-surgical means; however, they can be treated so that they do not worsen or increase in pain and severity. One of the most common non-surgical options is bunion orthotics treatment.  Bunion orthotics treatment consists of having custom-made or over-the-counter orthotics inserted in your footwear to take the pressure off the bunion.  Orthotics can also help stabilize the foot and help realign the toes to relieve additional calluses or rubbing from socks and shoes.

Bunion orthotics treatment can also be combined with other non-surgical methods, such as toe spacers, padding, changes to footwear, and medication to alleviate pain and ensure that the bunion does not get worse.

If left untreated, a bunion can lead to long term damage to the bones and joints of the toe. Untreated bunions can cause arthritis or lead to deterioration of joint tissue.