Health Care

How to Prevent and Treat Bunions

A Physician Goes Over a Patient's Foot X-rays with Her.

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Putting your best foot forward is easier when bunions don’t hamper your movement and cause pain with every step. Domenick Calise, DPM, a podiatrist at AdventHealth, explains how you can take steps to prevent and treat bunions.

What Is a Bunion?

“A bunion is a large bump that forms in the joint at the base of your big toe,” says Dr. Calise. “When left untreated, bunions can lead to severe foot conditions, such as arthritis, hammertoe and bursitis.”

How to Prevent Bunions

Bunions are among the most common foot disorders, affecting up to one-third of all adults in America. “There are several different reasons people develop bunions. Bunions are often caused by imbalances in foot mechanics, inherited genetic predisposition, flat feet and arthritis. Injuries can lead to bunions as well. In general, shoes cannot cause bunions alone but can worsen them,” explains Dr. Calise. “And if bunions run in your family, the risk you’ll get them too increases. Luckily, there are ways to lessen your likelihood of developing bunions.”

To reduce your risk:

  • Get off your feet. Standing or moving around for long periods can make even the most comfortable shoes start to pinch. Taking off your shoes for a few minutes during the day can give your feet a much-needed chance to breathe and stretch.
  • Monitor your feet for changes. Bunions develop slowly over time, so catching them in their earliest stages can be challenging. Contact your physician if you notice a bump or lump on your foot that causes pain, redness or swelling in and around your big toe.
  • Wear the right shoes. Choose shoes that offer instant comfort when you first put them on, not those that need “breaking in” before you enjoy wearing them. Shoes should be the correct width and length for your feet and offer plenty of arch support to distribute your weight evenly. It’s also best to avoid shoes with heels higher than two inches since they put pressure on the joint. Additionally, it’s best to purchase shoes later in the day when swelling is the greatest.

Non-Surgical Treatment for Bunions

If you’ve moved past prevention and are dealing with a bunion on one or both of your feet, you have several non-surgical treatment options, including:

  • Bunion protection, such as gel-filled or moleskin pads
  • Corrective, low-heel footwear
  • Over-the-counter pain medication
  • Shoe inserts
  • Splints to hold your toes straight while sleeping

“Non-surgical treatments aim to temporarily relieve pain, but they won’t cure a bunion,” says Dr. Calise. “When non-surgical methods don’t give you the relief you’re looking for, bunion surgery to restore your big toe to its proper position could be your best option.”

Bunion Surgery

The type of bunion correction surgery you need is based on your health history and goals. Your surgeon will take measurements and X-rays to determine if your bunion is severe, moderate or mild. More advanced bunions often require more complicated surgery.

  • To correct a mild bunion, your surgeon shaves off the bony excess and realigns the ligaments, tendons and muscles surrounding the joint in your big toe.
  • To correct a moderate bunion, your surgeon typically cuts your metatarsal bone to help guide it into the proper position.
  • To correct a severe bunion, your surgeon will cut and rotate your metatarsal bone into the proper position before fixing it into place with screws or pins.

“Your podiatrist will work with you to create a care plan to meet your needs, as well as answer any questions you may have about bunion correction surgery,” shares Dr. Calise.

Orthopedic Care for a Full and Vibrant Life

We know you want to participate fully in your life, not watch from the sidelines while it happens, which is why our podiatry program offers advanced non-surgical and surgical care options designed to get you moving comfortably again.

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