As an orthopedic doctor, I treat a range of foot and ankle conditions, including bunions. A bunion, also called hallux valgus, is a bony bump that develops on the joint at the base of the big toe. Pressure on the big toe – which is often caused by wearing tight, narrow shoes – causes it to push against the second toe.
Over time, this kind of pressure can alter the toe’s bone structure and cause pain, swelling and redness. Bunions can also result from structural defects or other conditions, such as arthritis.
Nonsurgical Treatment Options
Bunions can usually be treated without surgery. Depending on the severity of the condition, I often recommend these nonsurgical options to treat bunion pain and prevent the bunion from worsening:
- Toe spacers/night splints: Pain relief can sometimes be achieved by simply taking the pressure off your bunion. This could mean custom or over-the-counter shoe inserts to space out your toes during the day, or toe splints to be worn at night.
- Proper shoe fit: Shoes that narrow toward the tip or squeeze too tightly around the metatarsophalangeal joint (MTP joint) are a common cause of painful bunions. To prevent or alleviate bunions, make sure you have proper footwear. Wear shoes that have plenty of toe space and are the right fit for each foot (as your right and left foot could vary in size).
- Icing and anti-inflammatory medications: Swelling around the MTP joint, and the corresponding pain, may be reduced by icing the bunion for 20 minutes a day, or by taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen or naproxen.
Surgical Treatment Options
Lapiplasty® 3D Bunion Correction
Lapiplasty® 3D Bunion Correction is a new treatment option designed to treat the root cause of the bunion, rather than simply minimizing its symptoms and appearance. During the procedure, your surgeon will rotate the deviated bone back to its normal position and secure the unstable foundational joint. No cast is required, and most patients are able to walk within days of surgery.
The traditional surgical removal of a bunion, called a bunionectomy, may still be an option for patients who don’t respond well to nonsurgical treatments and preventive measures. This typically involves cutting and realigning the bone and repairing the surrounding soft tissue.
Proper healing with a bunionectomy may take a while, even as an outpatient procedure. Typically, patients can return to normal activities after six to eight weeks, but it could take between six to 12 months to fully recover from their surgery.
I usually do not recommend the removal of a painless bunion for purely cosmetic reasons. If the bunion is not causing you pain, it is possible pain will develop in the joint once the bunion is removed.
Ask yourself some questions to evaluate your need for surgery:
- Am I old enough for bunion surgery? Surgery is not recommended for children or adolescents because they have not reached skeletal maturity, and there is a good chance the bunion could return.
- Does the pain interfere with everyday activities? If your bunion pain limits your movement or keeps you from participating in certain activities such as walking, jumping or running, then you may be a good candidate for surgery.
If you have bunion pain and would like to discuss surgical and nonsurgical treatment options, please make an appointment by calling 913-319-7600.
About the Author
James Halloran, M.D. is a board-certified and fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeon whose primary clinical interest focuses on diagnosis and treatment of conditions involving the knee, ankle, and foot. Dr. Halloran completed fellowship training in both sports medicine and foot/ankle surgery.
The medical information contained in the Dickson-Diveley Orthopaedics website is provided to increase your knowledge and understanding of orthopedic conditions. This information should not be interpreted as a recommendation for a specific medical or surgical treatment plan. As each patient may have specific symptoms or associated problems, the treatment regimen for a specific patient may not be the proper treatment for another.
Gaining knowledge and understanding of a particular problem or condition is the first step in any medical treatment plan. I believe the information presented on our website will be helpful for those individuals experiencing ankle pain, or other related problems. However, this information is not intended to replace the advice of your family physician. You are encouraged to consult with your physician to discuss any course of treatment presented or suggested.