What Can I Do to Relieve My Bunion Pain?
We wouldn’t wish bunion pain on our worst enemy.
(Not that we have any enemies, of course … we do our best to be friendly and welcoming to all here at the Community Foot Clinic of McPherson!)
At its worst, bunion pain can severely impact your quality of life. Necessary daily tasks may become deeply unpleasant to perform. Hobbies you used to participate in regularly may become too painful to enjoy at all.
And if the bump at the base of your big toe isn’t causing you too much discomfort yet, just know this: without taking action now, it will.
How Bad Is Your Bunion?
So here’s the first thing you should know: bunions are progressive deformities that only ever stagnate or get worse over time—never better—so getting your pain under control as soon as possible should be your highest priority.
That’s because, the further along your bunion has progressed, the fewer good options you’ll have left to manage or relieve your pain. By the time the bunion becomes large and the pain is intense and occurring daily, the “window” on conservative treatment options may already be closed.
In other words, the severity of your bunion determines what pain relief options we’ll be able to recommend for you.
Unfortunately, far too many of bunion patients don’t even come to see us for their first visit until they’ve already crossed the threshold for surgery. Don’t be one of them!
Conservative Pain Relief Strategies
Our goal is always to enable you to manage your pain and pursue your daily activities and hobbies as long as possible without surgery. Depending on the stage your bunion is in, we may be able to recommend some or all of the following options:
- Comfy shoes. As the bunion gets bigger, it’ll get harder and harder to find any pair of shoes that will fit comfortably. So as soon as you can, make sure you’re wearing comfy shoes that leave plenty of room in the forefoot and toe box area to accommodate your bunion, as well as provide lots of wiggle room for your toes.
- Padding. Even in a roomier pair of shoes, the bunion bump may be prone to rubbing painfully against the inside of the shoe. Wearing good socks will help a lot, but you may also benefit from a nonmedicated bunion pad to further reduce friction.
- Splinting or taping. As bunions progress, the toe joint becomes progressively more arthritic and rigid, making these options less workable. However, if your toe is still fairly flexible, you may be able to splint or tape your toe back into the correct position. This won’t get rid of the bunion, of course, but it can relieve joint stress and make you more comfortable.
- Arch support or orthotics. In many cases, fundamental flaws in foot structure or gait mechanics are a factor in both causing bunions and accelerating their progression. Properly chosen insole or orthotics may help eliminate that underlying source of instability. Plus, the added support and cushioning can help you deal with pain and pressure in the immediate term.
- Stretching. The scientific literature is mixed on whether or not stretches or physical therapy are effective for managing bunions. However, they can’t hurt! You may find that stretching and massage helps you reduce pain, and it may even help slow the rate at which your bunion progresses by strengthening those supporting muscles and tissues.
- Medications. Now, we do not recommend that you be on a daily painkilling regimen to deal with your bunions—if pain is that bad or that constant, surgery is usually the better solution. However, if pain is only mild or intermittent, taking an over-the-counter NSAID or, occasionally, stopping by our office for a cortisone injection may be advisable.
When Conservative Treatments Aren’t Enough
Unfortunately, regardless of how careful you are with your conservative and preventative care, there usually comes a point where these methods just aren’t cutting it anymore.
If your pain is occurring daily and impacting your quality of life, and conservative treatments aren’t providing enough relief, it’s probably time to start considering surgery.
We know … this isn’t exactly what you wanted to hear. But there are a few things you should know.
First, bunion surgery is highly successful on average. It’s a procedure we perform literally every week in our office, and the vast majority (over 90 percent) of patients are highly satisfied with the long-term results.
Second, the downtime may be easier than you think. Now, certainly, everyone responds a little differently to the procedure. But it’s not at all unusual for some patients to be back to walking and bearing weight (with a surgical shoe) within a few days of the surgery—some even the same day. Full recovery can be as quick as 2 weeks or as long as about 8, depending on a number of factors, with perhaps some moderate pain or swelling persisting for a few more months.
And third, while we know surgery can be scary and rehab is never exactly “fun,” if we’re even recommending it in the first place you’re probably already suffering on a daily basis. You can either keep suffering indefinitely, or take a “chance” on a procedure that is highly likely to fix your deformity and relieve your pain within one to two months. Seems like an easy choice, right?
We hope you think so. But again, while surgery is a great option, it’s even better to not let your bunion get to that point in the first place!
If you start to notice a bunion forming at the base of your big toe—regardless of whether your symptoms are mild, extreme, or nonexistent—please call our office immediately for a full examination and treatment options. You can schedule with us in McPherson, Lindsborg, or Hillsboro by dialing (620) 241-3313 today. Or simply fill out our online contact form and a member of our staff will reach out to you.