Get Relief from Bunions: Non-Surgical Treatment for Bunions

Before opting for bunion foot surgery, try non-surgical bunion treatments and methods such as wearing sensible, well-fitting shoes, using padding or orthotics to protect the foot and take the pressure off the bunion or taking medication for pain and inflammation.


Early treatment works best. Delaying bunion treatment increases the risk of developing joint deformities that require bunion removal surgery.

For Preventing and Treating Bunions, Wear Low Heel, Better Fitting Shoes

The Consumer's Report on Health and the Mayo Clinic emphasize the importance of not wearing ill-fitting high heel shoes. Flat, good-fitting shoes help decrease the chances of bunions worsening, while relieving the pain and pressure of existing ones.

The American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society has developed a ten-point list for choosing good shoes, some of which are detailed below:
  • Go shoe shopping late in day when your feet are at their widest.
  • Most people have one foot that is bigger. Fit your bigger foot and use padded inserts to fit the shoe for the smaller foot.
  • Look for a deep, wide toe box. If your toes can't wiggle or if they are touching the front end of the shoe, that shoe is too tight and too small. There should be about a half-inch space of free area in front of your longest toe.
  • Look for comfortable shoes that are comfortable right away. If they are tight in the shoe store, leave them there. "Breaking in" shoes that are too small or tight can damage your feet, causing additional pain and pressure on existing bunions.
  • Don't get caught up in a number. Different manufacturers size their shoes differently. Always try on shoes and buy what fits.

Not willing to give up high heels entirely? Wear flats or lower heels while walking and switch to higher ones when sitting or for short periods of time. The best choices for shoes are:

  • athletic shoes,
  • shoes with soft-leather uppers that mold to the foot
  • open toed sandals that don't touch the affected area

Bunion Treatment Includes Padding, Bunion Taping or Bunion Night Splints for Bunion Pain Relief

Use a moleskin doughnut over the bump or foam or lamb's-wool between your toes to help reduce both pain and pressure. Other types of bunion apparatus include a bunion pad, bunion night splints and toe spreaders. While devices such as bunion splints can relieve pain and pressure, they may not be able to correct the alignment of the big toe or prevent your bunions from getting worse.
For more serious bunion pain and pressure, see a podiatrist, chiropodist or chiropractor to learn how to tape and pad your foot or check out Lisa Howell's bunion taping demonstration.

Medications and Treatments to Reduce Bunion Pain and Inflammation

Both over-the counter (OTC) and stronger prescription drugs can help control inflammation and pain of bunions. OTC medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) help in bunion pain relief.

To temporarily ease pain and swelling, try nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). NSAIDS include ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve). Be careful. Long-term use increases the risk of stomach bleeding, ulcers and heart problems.

Cortisone injections were thought to be helpful in reducing pain and inflammation and may be helpful when the fluid-filled sac (bursa) inside the joint is inflamed. However, according to Consumer Reports on Health, new research indicates these injections may do more harm than good. By weakening the ligaments that hold the big toe in place, cortisone may worsen the bunion.

For a non-medical bunion pain relief, ice your foot for about twenty minutes several times a day to reduce swelling. Keeping your foot elevated can also help bring down some of the swelling.

Note: Always speak to your health practitioner before trying any treatment.

Go for No-Impact or Low-Impact Activities to Relieve Foot and Toe Pressure

Activities such as running and jogging put a lot of stress and weight on the front of the foot and add extra pressure on the toe joint. For some people, even standing and walking cause pain.

Substitute no-impact or low-impact activities such as swimming and cycling and don't stand for too long.

Using Shoe Inserts or Prescription Orthotics for Bunion Correction and Bunion Pain Relief

If your bunion is caused by flat feet, a prescription orthotic can support the arch of your foot and relieve pressure on the big toe. A properly fitted shoe insert can also slow the bunion's growth and help with bunion pain relief.

While OTC arch supports provide relief if you do not have serious foot effects, they are not for everybody. Poorly fitting, ready-made orthotics can introduce new problems or make old problems worse by changing the position of your foot and other joints. See a podiatrist, chiropodist or chiropractor for prescription orthotics.

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Fitness Expert

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