A bunion occurs when the large metatarsal bone angles outward at the big-toe joint, thus forcing the toe inward; pressure over this distended joint can cause swelling and eventually a bony outgrowth. In the formation of a bunion, the bursa—a small, fluid-filled sac—around the base of the big toe becomes inflamed, forcing the toe out of proper alignment. (Bursae, which are found around most joints, help minimize friction between tendons and muscles as they pass over bone.)
Smaller bunions—bunionettes—may occasionally appear on the fifth metatarsal bone and the little-toe joint.
Symptoms of Bunions
- Pain and swelling of the joint where the big toe joins the foot
- Inward leaning of the big toe toward the second toe
What Causes Bunions?
Developing a bunion may be the result of an inherited tendency, and flat-footed people are more likely to get bunions than others. Poorly-fitted shoes—especially those with high heels and narrow toes—are undoubtedly the worst bunion makers, which is why women are far more prone to bunions than men.
What If You Do Nothing?
Not only is a bunion painful, it can also become disfiguring. Neglecting bunions over a period of years can eventually interfere with standing and walking.
Home Remedies for Bunions
- Change shoes. If you think you are developing a bunion, switch to shoes with a low heel, ample toe room, and a proper last, so that the big toe is not forced against the second toe. Avoid any shoes or stockings that put pressure on the big toe joint. If practical, consider wearing sandals or other types of open shoes.
- Use a bunion guard to protect the big toe (or little one) from the shoe.
- Pamper your feet. Soaking them in warm water may offer relief. Gentle massage can also help.
- Use toe separators. Toe separators separate and cushion the toes providing relief from minor bunion pain.
Wearing well-fitting shoes is the best way to prevent bunions. Corrective pads can help as well.
Beyond Home Remedies: When To Call Your Doctor
If persistent bunions become painful or hinder walking, seek professional advice.
What Your Doctor Will Do
Medical measures include attaching a splint along the inner side of the foot to align the big toe into proper position. Various surgical procedures have been devised for treating severe cases. Get a second opinion before you decide to undergo surgery for bunions. Also find out if patients treated by the physician performing the surgery are satisfied with the results.
The Complete Home Wellness Handbook
John Edward Swartzberg, M.D., F.A.C.P., Sheldon Margen, M.D., and the editors of the UC Berkeley Wellness Letter
Updated by Remedy Health Media