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Foot Bunion Treatment

by Jane Hodgson 16 July 2010


The purpose of foot bunion treatment is to relieve pain. Surgery is an option, but  other methods of treatment such as exercise, adaption of footwear and podiatry should usually be tried first.

Commonly called a bunion, the medical description for a boney lump on the side of the big toe, combined with deviation of the toe, is hallux valgus or hallux abducto valgus. Hallux means big toe and valgus means deviation towards the outside of the foot, so put simply the big toe is deviated outwards.

As well as causing a cosmetic deformity this affects the function of the foot. The foot becomes flatter which can initiate pain under the foot, also footwear can rub over the deformity itself. The aim of foot bunion treatment is to provide pain relief.

As the deviation becomes bigger the second and third toes become squashed and in turn can become deformed and give pain.

What Causes Foot Bunions?

In the USA the national centre for health statistics says that 1% of adults have a bunion of the big toe. There are various factors that make it more likely that a person will get bunions:

  • Family History: More than half of people who have a bunion will have a family history of a close relative with bunions. Bunions themselves are not inherited but foot type and position which plays are part in leading to the formation of bunions is.

  • Flat feet and overpronation at the foot. Overpronation means that on each step the foot rolls over more than normal and the push off sends a force through the big toe pushing it outwards towards the other toes.

  • Tight calf muscles. This can happen either if playing sport or through conditions such as cerebral palsy. Tight calf muscles lead to overpronation.

  • The incidence of bunions increases with age

  • Bunions are commoner in women than men, this is partly because women have a wider pelvis altering the rotational movement of the leg.

Foot Bunion Treatment

There are many different operations available to correct bunions, but it is considered by most that all other treatments should be exhausted first. This is because all surgery carries some degree of risk, the recovery after bunion surgery is relatively slow, most people consider 3 - 6 months the time frame to be back to some degree of normality and even after surgery the bunion can reoccur. Surgery is only normally done for the relief of pain, and not for cosmetic reasons.

Other foot bunion treatments which should be tried before surgery is considered include:

  • Treatment for the pain including application of ice or the use of painkillers and anti inflammatory medication

  • Adaption of footwear. Using shoes with a wide toe box that doesn't compress the toes.

  • Seeing a podiatrist for specialist insoles which correct the position of the foot.

  • In particular in the early stages of a the formation of a bunion specific exercises such as calf stretches and core stability exercises can alter the lower limb biomechanics and prevent the progression of the bunion.

  • Silicone gel pads and bunion guards can take pressure off the bunion and relieve pain

Disclaimer: The information on this page is written to help you understand foot bunion treatment. There are many possible causes for foot pain and should you have any concerns you should always seek advice from a qualified health professional such as a Chartered Physiotherapist or your GP.

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About the author

Jane Hodgson - Chartered Physiotherapist Jane Hodgson Jane specialises in lower body injuries and has raced competitively in running, orienteering and adventure racing.

Did you know

The word bunion comes from the latin bunio which literally translated means turnip

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