Does one of your toes appear to bend in an awkward way, or curl under painfully? If so, you may have a bunions. It forms when the bone or tissue at the joint at the bottom of the big toe moves out of place.
Bunions are prevalent in families, but they also can be the result of the way we walk or the shoes we wear, says podiatrist Georgeanne Botek.
Women develop bunions far more often than men, Dr. Botek says, especially as they get older.
But sometimes the symptoms are so severe that sufferers will need surgery.
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Can you treat these bony lumps naturally?
Bunions look different from person to person, but they’re fairly easy to spot.
They manifest as hard lumps on the sides of your feet by your big toes, or when your big toe points towards your other toes.
Sometimes bunions cause hard or swollen skin and then bunions may look red or darker than the surrounding skin.
Bunions can be painful, specifically along the side or bottom of your feet.
The pain is normally worse when you’re wearing shoes or walking.
Don’t confuse bunions for a broken toe, which causes pain, bruising and swelling after an injury.
You also shouldn’t mix up bunions with gout, which presents as red, hot, swollen skin over the joint that comes and goes.
Arthritis symptoms can also be similar to bunions – it causes aching, swollen and stiff joints that are usually worse in the morning.
You can’t always prevent bunions and the cause is unknown.
Medical experts reckon it might help to make sure you wear shoes that are the correct size and have enough room for your toes.
Wearing high heels or pointy toes every day is a no-no when it comes to bunions, so try to keep these for special occasions if you want to avoid them.
How you can treat bunions naturally?
Bunions will stay permanently unless surgically corrected. But there are some steps you can take to be more comfortable or to slow a bunion’s progression, says podiatrist Dina Stock from Cleveland Clinic.
“For many people, it may simply be a matter of wearing properly fitting shoes,” she says.
Dr. Stock says these seven approaches may relieve the pain and pressure on the toe joint:
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Protect the bunion with a moleskin or gel-filled pad, which you can buy at a drugstore.
- Use shoe inserts to help position the foot correctly. These can be over-the-counter arch supports or prescription orthotic devices.
- Under a doctor’s guidance, wear a splint at night to hold the toe straight and ease discomfort.
- Take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen.
- Use warm soaks, ice packs, Whirlpool, ultrasound and massage.
- Buy well-fitting footwear that’s wide in the toe area. Shop at a store where the staff measures your foot and can fit you with an appropriate shoe.
Some people are interested in treating their bunions by stretching the feet to realign the toes, or using devices such as toe spacers or bunion splints, Dr. Botek says. Often though, the device is like a pair of eyeglasses – when you take it off, the benefit is gone.
“It won’t completely realign your toe permanently,” Dr. Botek says.
When it’s time for surgery
If your bunion is very painful, your podiatrist may recommend surgery.
“First do surgery on your shoes,” Dr. Botek states.
Image Credit: Getty