Bunions are a painful, common deformity that usually occur on the big toe. The large bump that forms can be excruciating, but there is more than meets the eye. Doctors know that bump as “hallux valgus,” and while the outer portion is visible, what’s below is a bone or ligament tissue at the joint that has moved out of place. There are many causes of bunions, including abnormal movements, overexertion, poor nutrition, and genetics.

If you are suffering from the severe and constant pain of a bunion, you aren’t alone. It’s estimated that approximately 30 percent of adults in the U.S. suffer from this common cause of foot pain. While they are more common in women and older adults, bunions can affect anyone of any age.

Can I Treat a Bunion Without Surgery?

Bunions can become so severe that they require surgery to treat. However, there are many different non-surgical options to reduce the pain and appearance of this unsightly condition.

1. Identify symptoms immediately

Most people don’t realize they are experiencing the early stages of a bunion. As the bump begins to form, one or more of these symptoms may present: physical discomfort, which may include a burning sensation, redness, swelling, nerve pain, and possible numbness, and trouble walking, with balanced distribution on the base of your feet.
If you are able to pinpoint bunion formation as it starts, the likelihood of successfully preventing its growth significantly increases.

2. Get professionally fitted

One of the worst feelings for people who have bunions is wearing shoes that agitate the area. Anyone with a genetic history of bunions may benefit from a professional footwear fitting. Unknowingly, many people purchase shoes that are too tight, or simply do not have an adequate fit to allow them room to move their feet properly. This can lead to the dislodging of the tiny bones and ligaments in the feet that cause bunions.

3. Apply a bandage

There are many low cost, self-adhesive bandages specifically made to treat bunions. They can be found at your local pharmacy, and they come in a variety of sizes and shapes. Bunion pads put a layer of padded protection between the sensitive area of the foot and shoes, reducing pain.

4. Anti-inflammatory medication

NSAIDs, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can be purchased in the form of Advil and aspirin. Alternatively, you can try some of these natural anti-inflammatory herbs and spices for relief, including turmeric, ginger, cayenne pepper, sage, and clove. Anti-inflammatory medications are able to reduce the swelling of the soft tissues that causes redness and pain.

5. Ice

Swelling can worsen the size of a bunion, making it increasingly difficult to walk or enjoy any activity. Reduce swelling and problematic inflammation with the traditional remedy of an icy footbath or apply an ice pack to the area for relief.

6. Toe separators

Restoring natural balance to healthy feet is a great way to treat bunions without surgery. In order to maintain the proper alignment of soft tissue and bones, wear the toe separators at night, and you may be able to avoid the surgical implants of screws, wires, and plates to do the trick. Other orthotics include overnight splints, bandages, and bunion wraps.

7. Lose unwanted weight

Extra weight can put additional pressure on already painful feet with bunions. Avoid any added heaviness by consulting with your healthcare provider about approaching weight loss. If you have a few extra pounds to lose, it could make all the difference.

8. Exercise

When bunions occur, the soft tissue in the big toe has become irritated. For this reason, specific foot exercises may help to ease the pain of the deformity. However, these exercises may not completely remove the bunion. Try this non-surgical option if you already have one of these painful bumps.

Toe flex foot stretch: Press toes against a flat surface like the wall of your office. Hold feet flexed with toes pointing upwards, toward the ceiling and press the heels deep into the wall. Hold the position for 10 seconds. Then turn your toes towards the left. Press heels deep into the wall. Hold for 10 seconds. Repeat by turning your toes towards the right. Press heels deep into the wall. Hold for 10 seconds.

Big toe stretch: Use your fingertips to pull the big toe over into a straight alignment. Hold for 10 seconds. Then rest for 10-15 seconds. Repeat 2-3 times.

Ball roll: Place a tennis ball on the ground. Roll the ball under your foot for up to 2 minutes, using it to relieve foot strain, muscle tension and pain.

The Bottom Line on Bunions

While at-home treatments are helpful, they may not offer the relief you need. If you find that your bunion is not responding to these non-surgical bunion treatments, seek the care of your doctor.