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Family Foot & Ankle

Effective Treatment Options for Your Bunion

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When it comes to bunions, the last thing you want to do is ignore them.

This is true even if, for the most part, you feel like you’re doing just fine despite your deformity. Not all bunions are severe. Not all bunions are painful. Not all bunions keep you from doing what you love to do. And while we wouldn’t necessarily call them attractive, maybe the unsightliness doesn’t bother you.

Here’s the problem:

Your bunion may not be bothering you now, but if you don’t do something about it, sooner or later it will. Bunions are progressive, meaning that without intervention they only get worse—never better. Eventually, just finding a pair of shoes that don’t cause you to scream out in pain may become next-to-impossible.

So what do you do? That’s what this blog is about, so read on!

First, though, we need to answer a very important question:

What Is the Main Goal of Bunion Treatment?

Now, at first glance the answer to this question might seem obvious. “To get rid of it, of course!” That’s what many people initially think.

And, yes, “getting rid of it” might, in practice, be the selected means by which we achieve the main goal in some cases. But it is actually not the main goal itself.

So what is?

In short: The main goal of bunion treatment is to enable you to live your preferred lifestyle unencumbered by pain.

Sometimes, when the bunion is already severe, that may require us to remove the bunion and reconstruct your forefoot surgically.

But in many other cases, non-surgical remedies can take away your pain, return you to your daily activities and hobbies, and restore your quality of life. Even though they won’t make the bunion “go away,” they may well be able to keep it from noticeably bothering you on a day-to-day basis.

If we believe we can help you achieve the main goal of bunion treatment without surgery, then that is almost certainly what we’ll recommend to you. (The vast majority of our patients appreciate this approach!)

So What Are the Non-Surgical Options?

That will, of course, depend on factors such as:

  • What’s causing your bunion?
  • How large is it?
  • How much pain is it causing you?
  • What kinds of activities would you like to be able to do that you currently can’t do (or at least can’t do without considerable discomfort) due to your bunion?

We’ll cover all this during your thorough physical exam, of course. But basically, once we have an idea of the stage your condition is at and what your long-term goals are, it’s time to develop a treatment plan that we think will give you the best chance at (A) controlling your pain, and (B) slowing or halting the rate at which your bunion is worsening.

What might be included in a non-surgical treatment plan? Here are some of the most common recommendations:

  • New shoes. You’re going to want to have footwear that is wide enough at the front to accommodate your bunion (and your toes) without a ton of pressure or friction.
  • New orthotics. Contrary to popular belief, most bunions aren’t caused by wearing bad shoes; they’re caused by foot structures that were flawed to begin with. An appropriately selected pair of orthotics can help reposition, realign, support, and cushion your feet—taking painful pressure away from the bunion and even keeping it from getting worse.
  • Other shoe inserts. Some popular choices here include bunion pads, which cushion and protect the sensitive bunion from friction and pressure, and toe splints that help keep the big toe correctly aligned.
  • Physical therapy. Again, stretches and exercises won’t shrink your bunion. But they can relieve symptoms and strengthen the muscles, joints, and tissues surrounding the deformity. A previous blog post on our site details some of the specific exercises to try, including toe lifts, stretches, and flexes.
  • Medications. If your bunion is mild, an occasional (as recommended) dose of an over-the-counter NSAID could be all you need. For tougher, more chronic pain, we might consider providing a cortisone injection for longer-term relief.

Considering Surgery

So let’s say your bunion checks all of the following boxes:

  • It hurts a lot, more or less on a daily basis.
  • It’s keeping you from doing the things you love to do (or making you so miserable in the process that you no longer love to do them.)
  • You’ve given the conservative treatment options the old college try, and they just aren’t cutting it.

In that case, the writing is on the wall. A surgical fix is likely going to be your only legitimate remaining solution.

But it’s not all bad news! For starters, the foot and ankle surgeons here at Family Foot & Ankle have been performing bunion surgeries for years, and we’ve kept up with the latest research and evolving techniques.

Although results can never be fully guaranteed, we can tell you that bunion surgery hits very high marks for safety, success, and patient satisfaction.

It’s an outpatient procedure, too, so you don’t have to go to the hospital and can go home later that day.

In the best-case scenario, depending on the surgical techniques used and age/health of the patient, some people are able to go back to some level of walking and weightbearing almost immediately. In a more typical case, you might be looking at a couple of weeks off your feet and a few more after that in a surgical boot—plus, of course, some physical therapy, follow-up visits, and at least a couple months with some residual swelling or discomfort.

If that sounds disappointing to you, remember that, by the time surgery becomes a treatment option, most people are already in serious pain every day and can’t live their life the way they want to anymore. In that context, a few weeks to a few months of post-surgical recuperation seems like a very, very small price to pay in return for a fully fixed foot and pain-free activity!

But now, did you remember what we said at the very top of this blog?

Here’s a reminder: Your bunion may not be bothering you now, but if you don’t do something about it, sooner or later it will.

And here’s the logical follow-up to that statement: the sooner you seek help for your bunions, the more likely you’ll be able to avoid surgery—both now and indefinitely.

So please, if you want the best chance at the simplest effective treatment plan for your bunions, don’t wait another day. Call the Family Foot & Ankle Center today at (513) 728-4800 or fill out our contact form to schedule your appointment!. We have multiple locations in both Ohio and Kentucky to serve you.

Dr. Cynthia Miller
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Dr. Cynthia Miller is a board certified podiatrist who has been established in the Cincinnati area since 2004.
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