How to manage and treat bunions

A bunion is a bony lump that forms on the knuckle of your big toe. Bunions form when the bone or tissue in the joint moves out of place, causing the tip of your big toe to point inwards towards your little toe and press against your other toes. This then causes the base of your big toe to stick out. Bunions worsen over time and can become very painful and cause the skin in the affected area to become red and sore. 

The medical name for a bunion is hallux valgus. While the exact cause of bunions is unknown, they are often inherited or caused by a foot injury. 

How to manage bunions

You can’t get rid of your bunions without surgery but there are things you can do to help reduce your symptoms and prevent them from getting worse. 

Spot the symptoms 

Bunion symptoms include: 

  • A bony lump at the base of your big toe 
  • Corns or calluses
  • Limited movement in your big toe
  • Pain in your big toe joint
  • Sore or red skin at the base of your big toe 
  • Swelling of your big toe 

Once you spot the symptoms of bunions, you can take steps to better maintain your feet to stop existing bunions from getting worse and prevent new bunions.  

Wear proper shoes

Ill-fitting shoes can cause a number of problems, including bunions. If your shoes are too tight, pinch your foot or pinch your toes, then you’re more likely to develop bunions. 

When choosing shoes, select a pair that has a wider toe, good arch support and a heel under two inches. Make sure your shoe offers you the support your foot needs — if you have flat feet, you will need a different type of support to someone who has a high arch. 

Maintain a healthy weight

Your feet carry all of your weight, so if you are overweight, walking will put more pressure on the joint in your big toe and can make your bunion more painful. Losing excess weight will ease your symptoms.

Look after your feet

Make time to care for your feet:

  • Elevate your feet whenever you sit down to reduce the risk of swelling
  • Ice your foot with frozen gel packs to help reduce swelling and inflammation
  • Massage your foot — encouraging good circulation and movement in your big toe will help keep the tissue soft and increase flexibility
  • Soak your foot in warm water with Epsom salts — this will help soothe pain and reduce inflammation  

How to get rid of bunions


The type of treatment recommended by your doctor will depend on the severity of your bunion. If it is very painful or having a big impact on your daily activities, your doctor may recommend surgery.  

Bunion removal surgery (a bunionectomy) is a relatively straightforward procedure. It’s carried out under general anaesthetic and takes around 90 minutes. The goal of a bunionectomy is to relieve the pain caused by your bunion and to correct the position of your big toe. 

You will need to stay off your feet as much as possible for at least two weeks after surgery. A full recovery will take around six months. 

Non-surgical treatments


Anti-inflammatory drugs, such as naproxen or ibuprofen can help reduce inflammation and pain.

Bunion pads

Bunion pads can be bought at a pharmacy without the need for a prescription. They are normally a gel-filled pad and are worn during the day inside your footwear.


Orthotic insoles can be bought to help support and correctly position your foot. Contact your GP or a podiatrist to find the correct insole for you. You can get orthotics on prescription.

Toe splint

A toe support or splint may be recommended by your GP. These are typically worn at night to help hold your toe straight. 

We hope you've found this article useful, however, it cannot be a substitute for a consultation with a specialist

If you're concerned about symptoms you're experiencing or require further information on the subject, talk to a GP or see an expert consultant at your local Spire hospital.

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Cahoot Care Marketing

Niched in the care sector, Cahoot Care Marketing offers a full range of marketing services for care businesses including: SEO, social media, websites and video marketing, specialising in copywriting and content marketing.

Over the last five years Cahoot Care Marketing has built an experienced team of writers and editors, with broad and deep expertise on a range of care topics. They provide a responsive, efficient and comprehensive service, ensuring content is on brand and in line with relevant medical guidelines.

Their writers and editors include care sector workers, healthcare copywriting specialists and NHS trainers, who thoroughly research all topics using reputable sources including the NHS, NICE, relevant Royal Colleges and medical associations.

The Spire Content Hub project was managed by:

Lux Fatimathas, Editor and Project Manager

Lux has a BSc(Hons) in Neuroscience from UCL, a PhD in Cellular and Molecular Biology from the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology and experience as a postdoctoral researcher in developmental biology. She has a clear and extensive understanding of the biological and medical sciences. Having worked in scientific publishing for BioMed Central and as a writer for the UK’s Medical Research Council and the National University of Singapore, she is able to clearly communicate complex concepts.

Catriona Shaw, Lead Editor

Catriona has an English degree from the University of Southampton and more than 12 years’ experience copy editing across a range of complex topics. She works with a diverse team of writers to create clear and compelling copy to educate and inform.

Alfie Jones, Director — Cahoot Care Marketing

Alfie has a creative writing degree from UCF and initially worked as a carer before supporting his family’s care training business with copywriting and general marketing. He has worked in content marketing and the care sector for over 10 years and overseen a diverse range of care content projects, building a strong team of specialist writers and marketing creatives after founding Cahoot in 2016.