Do I need to have my bunions removed?

Hallux valgus, bunion in foot on white backgroundIf you have bunions, you know they can cause discomfort while walking around. But should you have your bunions removed? The answer is: maybe not.

Bunions, or hallux valgus, develop when the bone or tissue at the bottom joint of the toe shifts, causing a bony bump. They are commonly found on the base of the big toe or pinky toe. Over time, the bunion can possibly become larger and painful due to stress on its location. The pressure placed on your feet from wearing tight or ill-fitting shoes is often the cause of this stress. Bunions can also be affected by the way you walk or run. Years of pressure on the joint forces the big toe to bend toward the others, which causes a piece of the bone to protrude out.

Bunions are common, and sometimes hereditary. Anyone can get bunions, but it’s seen mostly with women, as they have a tendency to wear tight and confining shoes. People with low arches, flat feet, and arthritis are also likely to get them. Bunions are permanent unless they are surgically removed. They can cause severe and constant pain, and when the joint becomes so stiff and sore, shoes may be too painful to wear.

It’s understandable to be thinking about having your bunion removed when a bone is sticking out from the side of your big toe while you’re trying to wear those cute sandals. However, if your bunions aren’t painful and are not stopping you from walking around comfortably then you probably should not have surgery. Having your bunions removed for purely cosmetic reasons is not advised by most doctors.

Here are 10 things you can do at home to provide relief:
1. Change the type of shoes you wear. Trade in your tight-fitting or pointy-toed shoes for comfortable, wide shoes. It is important to make sure you are wearing the correct size shoes; your shoes should conform to the shape of your feet with room to wiggle your toes. Avoid high heels larger than 2 inches and flip-flops with flimsy soles. Remember, don’t go for fashion over comfort and support.
2. Add gel inserts to your shoes, making sure your toes still have plenty of room to move around.
3. Apply ice to the area for 10 to 15 minutes a day. Putting a towel between the ice pack and your skin will make it more comfortable.
4. Soak your feet in cold (not freezing) water to help with swelling. Soak your feet in warm water with Epsom salt to reduce inflammation and joint stiffness in your toe.
5. Add bunion pads to the location. This will help relieve the irritation of your shoes rubbing against the bunion. You can find moleskin or gel filled pads at your local drugstore.
6. Take off your shoes and elevate your feet to reduce pressure and swelling.
7. Maintain a normal weight, as added weight can put pressure on your feet. The big toe carries a lot of your weight while walking, so maintaining a healthy lifestyle can be a big help.
8. Take an ibuprofen when you are in pain to help reduce inflammation
9. Massage, stretch, and flex your feet to provide relief.
10. Wear a splint, toe spacers, or orthopedic inserts to help reposition the toe and provide padding.

Even if you’re not having pain with your bunion you should see your doctor. They may refer you to a podiatrist. If you catch your bunion early, they may only suggest you change your shoes. Otherwise, they may recommend orthopedic shoes or custom inserts, depending on the severity of your bunion.

If your bunions become extremely painful and it is hard for you to get around, your podiatrist may determine that it is time to have the bunion removed. Sometimes it is important to return your big toe to its original position and to help your body get back in order to improve your mobility and comfort.

It is important to note that bunion surgery has a long recuperation time and you have to stay off your feet. This is why it is important to try other treatments before considering surgery.