Is Surgery Always Needed to Treat Bunions?

A bunion is a bony deformity that develops near the joint of your big toe. It can be painful enough that you can’t walk more than a few blocks at a time. One treatment method is surgery to remove the deformity. While the procedure is effective, it typically requires 4-6 months of recovery.

Here at Hoosier Foot & Ankle, we have numerous other approaches to treating your bunion that don’t require surgery. Only if none of those methods proves successful in getting you comfortable again might we recommend surgery.

Here are a few nonsurgical options:

Wear shoes that don’t put pressure on your bunion

Wearing comfortable shoes is one of the easiest things you can do to avoid bunion surgery. Look for supportive shoes that have plenty of room for your toes.

You can make comfortable shoes even more effective at preventing pain by adding a bunion pad or shoe insert. You can buy them over-the-counter at many drug stores. If you need help choosing an option, one of the experts podiatrists at Hoosier Foot & Ankle can recommend a brand that will work well for you.

The last thing you want to do is wear high-heeled shoes or other shoes that put pressure on your bunion.

Apply ice to swollen bunions

Bunion pain usually comes with swelling, which in turn puts even more pressure on the bunion. It’s a repetitive cycle that can make people rush for surgery. Before you go that route, try applying ice to the swollen bunion. The cold temperature should lower the swelling and stop the pain from growing more intense.

Get cortisone shots to reduce swelling

Cortisone is an anti-inflammatory medication that can reduce swelling in your toe joint. The cortisone will last much longer than ice packs. You will, however, have to come to the office to get the shots.

Use a bunion splint or toe spacer

Keeping your toes pointed in the correct position can reduce the stress on your bunion throughout the day. Depending on the severity of your bunion, you may find that a bunion splint or toe spacer offers some relief by holding your toes in position.

Keep in mind that bunion splints and toe spacers work only while you wear them. They don’t permanently correct your bunion, but they can relieve pressure during the day.

If you can get through the day without feeling foot pain, then you may not need bunion surgery. At the very least, you can use the devices to delay surgery for as long as possible.

Improve your foot strength

We know several physical therapists in town who can teach you exercises that will strengthen your feet, improve flexibility, and relieve pain. The exercises usually involve stretching, flexing, and contracting your toes.

Other exercises may include using your toes to pick up a towel off the floor, massaging your feet with a tennis ball, and using resistance bands to build strength.

Some people with bunions even keep buckets of sand in their homes. Squeezing the sand between their toes provides a workout that improves strength and flexibility.

When you need bunion surgery

Alternatives to bunion surgery may not work throughout your lifetime. If the time comes, Dr. DeHeer, a board-certified podiatrist and foot and ankle surgeon, can talk to you about your surgical options and plan a time that will disrupt your life as little as possible.

If you want to schedule an appointment or get more information about alternatives to bunion surgery, please send us a message through our secure website. We’ll find a convenient time for you to speak with one of our doctors in an office near you.

You may discover that you can avoid surgery for several years — or maybe your whole life. Regardless, it’s a good idea to get a professional opinion from one of our podiatrists.

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