A bunion, also known as hallux valgus, is when your big toe turns towards your other toes. The joint in your big toe deforms, which causes a bony lump on the side of your foot. Skin in this area can thicken, in response to rubbing against your shoes, and tissues can become inflamed. This causes pain and swelling.
Sometimes a soft swelling will develop over the lump called bursitis. Sometimes a smaller bunion can appear on your little toe called a bunionette.
In most cases, it may not be obvious why a bunion has formed, but certain things increase your risk of getting them including:
If you have a bunion, you may notice:
You might also:
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Although bunions often need no medical treatment, see your GP or a doctor who specialises in treating foot disorders (podiatrist or orthopaedic foot specialist) if you have:
Usually, your doctor can tell you if you have a bunion after conducting a simple assessment. They'll look at your feet and toes and watch you walk.
An X-ray can show the level of deformity.
Bunions can cause other conditions to develop, including:
Your GP may refer you to a podiatrist to give you advice on how to manage your bunions. If you have bunion pain, this can be eased by:
If your bunions are very painful or are reducing your quality of life, your GP may recommend a surgery called a bunionectomy or an osteotomy. This will straighten out the joint in your big toe as much as possible and consequently improve the appearance of your big toe and reduce your pain. Surgery is usually a day case and can be performed under local or general anaesthetic. It is the only way to get rid of bunions.
Bunion surgery can involve removing, realigning and pinning of your bones to:
A common type of bunion surgery is a scarf osteotomy, which refers to the shape of the bone cut used by the surgeon. Bunion surgery can be used to:
Risks of bunion surgery include:
It takes several weeks to recover from bunion surgery. During your recovery, it is recommended that you:
As the cause of bunions is usually not known, you may not be able to prevent bunions developing. However, you can reduce your risk by:
How do you get rid of bunions on your feet?
If your bunions are very painful or are reducing your quality of life, see your GP. They can refer you to a surgeon so you can have your bunions surgically removed — this is the only way to get rid of bunions.
Can bunions go away?
Bunions do not go away on their own. Surgery is the only way to get rid of bunions and is usually a day case, carried out under a local or general anaesthetic. However, in most cases, surgery is not needed and you can manage your symptoms by wearing shoes that fit well and provide enough room for your toes.
Why do people get bunions?
The exact cause of bunions is unknown. However, there are several risk factors for developing bunions, which include being a woman, wearing tight-fitting or high heeled shoes and performing activities such as ballet or rock climbing. You are also at greater risk if you have a family history of bunions, or have foot abnormalities or joint problems eg osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis.
How do you stop a bunion from growing?
One of the most effective ways to stop a bunion from growing bigger is to use well-fitting, wide shoes that support your feet and provide enough space for your toes. Bunion pads and bunion correctors (splints) can help too. You can also speak to your doctor about prescription orthotics.
How can I shrink my bunions naturally?
You can’t shrink your bunions naturally but you can reduce the pain they cause and help prevent them getting worse by:
Does going barefoot help bunions?
Walking barefoot can help bunions as it strengthens your foot muscles and doesn't restrict your feet or toes, so they can be in their natural position. However, you should be careful about the surfaces that you walk barefoot on to avoid injury.
What exercises fix bunions?
Exercises that strengthen your foot muscles can help with bunions. These include:
Do bunion correctors work?
Bunion correctors (bunion splints) can’t get rid of bunions — only surgery can do this. However, as they help spread the pressure evenly across your foot, they can prevent your bunion from getting worse.
Are flip flops bad for bunions?
Yes, flip flops and other footwear that does not support the arches of your feet are bad for bunions. Flip flops put extra pressure on your big toe joint and make your toes grip harder to keep your flip flops on your feet. This can aggravate your bunions.
Why is my bunion throbbing?
If you have been on your feet for a long time or are wearing high-heeled, tight or pointy shoes, your bunion can become inflamed. This can cause it to throb. Applying ice packs, resting your feet and taking over-the-counter painkillers can help relieve your pain.
Can acupuncture help bunions?
There is currently no conclusive evidence that bunions can be effectively treated with acupuncture.
How do you know if you are getting bunions?
You may notice a hard bump developing at the base of your big toe, as well as redness, soreness or swelling around your big toe joint. You may also develop corns or calluses between your big toe and second toe as your big toe is pushed towards and rubs against your second toe.
Are bunions painful to touch?
If your bunion becomes inflamed, it can swell and feel tender — this can make it painful to touch.