How to Treat Bunions and Bunion Pain Without Surgery

March 19, 2021
How to Treat Bunions and Bunion Pain Without Surgery

Millions of adults in the United States suffer from bunions, a painful condition that occurs when the big toe is pushed toward the second toe of the foot, forcing the joint at the base of the big toe, known as the metatarsophalangeal joint, out of place. The bony bump that forms on the affected toe joint is called a bunion, also known as hallux valgus. 


Bunions typically develop slowly and can occur as a result of arthritis, wearing too-tight shoes, or anything else that puts stress on the foot. Some common symptoms of bunions are redness and swelling around the metatarsophalangeal joint, pain or stiffness while walking, a big toe that presses into or overlaps the second toe, and corns and calluses that develop between the toes.

Foot Damage Caused by Bunions

Without prompt treatment, bunions can become bigger and more painful. They may even cause lasting damage to the foot that may require surgery to correct the deformity. Fortunately, there are several more conservative treatment options you can try first to stop the progression of your bunions without requiring surgery. 


The best treatment method for correcting bunions depends on your specific situation, which is why we always recommend consulting an experienced podiatrist when dealing with painful bunions. The following are some possible bunion treatment options that may work for you.

Non-Surgical Treatment Options for Painful Bunions

Changing Your Shoes

Some people are more likely than others to develop bunions because of a genetic predisposition. However, certain lifestyle factors can cause painful bunions to develop and progress. A logical first step, then, is to identify any factors that may be causing or contributing to your bunions and address them right away. 


As we mentioned before, wearing shoes that are too tight or narrow in the toe area is a leading cause of bunions. Shoes with an elevated heel canal so cause bunions to develop by putting excess pressure on the toe joint. 


The moment you begin experiencing pain, tenderness, or swelling at the metatarsophalangeal joint, reassess your footwear. Wearing comfortable, well-fitting shoes is an important part of good foot health. Changing your shoes or using padded shoe inserts is one of the easiest ways to stop the development or progression of painful bunions.

Wearing Bunion Cushions

If changing your shoes isn’t an option or it simply doesn’t work for you, try wearing a bunion pad or cushion to reduce the pressure on the toe joint. Test out different types of bunion pads to find one that effectively redistributes pressure away from the joint and does not constrict your toes even more.

Taking Over-the-Counter Pain Medications

The metatarsophalangeal joint bears much of the body’s weight while walking. When bunions develop, the resulting pain in the toe joint can be severe and constant. In some cases, over-the-counter medications like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may help reduce inflammation and relieve some of the pain associated with bunions. It is important to note that taking pain medications like acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and naproxen will only address the symptoms of a bunion, not its underlying cause.

Icing Your Bunions

Bunions can become significantly worse after a long day of walking or standing on your feet. For temporary relief from the soreness, pain, and swelling typical of bunions, try icing the affected joint. For some people, consistent ice therapy is effective in reducing the inflammation around the toe joint. If you have circulation problems or reduced feeling in your feet, we recommend speaking to your doctor first before applying ice to your bunions.

Common Podiatry Questions

What is a Podiatrist?

A podiatrist is a doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of disorders of the foot and ankle.

What does a Podiatrist treat?

A podiatrist is a doctor who specializes in the medical and surgical care of the feet. They can treat conditions such as ingrown toenails, fungal toenails, bunions, hammertoes, and plantar fasciitis.

What’s the difference between a Podiatrist and Orthopedist?

A Podiatrist and Orthopedist are very similar to each other in many ways. They use most of the same tools and treat a lot of the same conditions. The main difference between the two is their medical training. Podiatrists are trained exclusively on the foot and ankle, whereas the Orthopedic is trained on the whole body with an additional year of training on the foot and ankle.

Where are your Podiatry clinics located?

At Diablo Foot & Ankle, we treat our foot and ankle patients in two main clinic locations in Walnut Creek and in Antioch California. Dr. Eman Elmi and Dr. Shayan Esspoor are Board Certified Podiatrists who specialize in the treatment of foot and ankle disorders.

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