The foot is the base of your ability to stand, move, walk, run, and jump. Each feet and ankle has 29 bones, which accounts for more than 25% percent of the bones in our bodies. According to the American Podiatric Medical Association, up to 77% of those over the age of 18 suffer from some form of foot pain.
Luckily, proper footwear and simple exercises can go a long way in relieving foot pain and reducing the risk of developing bunions.
What’s a Bunion?
Bunions are an anatomical deformity which stems from a congenital structural defect or is caused by tight musculature and poor foot function. Tendons and constricted muscles deploy great force on the joints of the foot. The area often showing deformity from those forces is the joint between the foot and the big toe. In other words, this is the area where bunions typically form.
Ehen bunion forms between the long bone of the foot and the big toe, it creates an imbalance and increases the deformity. When formed between the fifth long bone and the little toe, it is called a bunionette.
How Bunions Form
Most bunions develop in adulthood, but they may develop in adolescence, too. Girls aged 10-15 are most prone to bunions among adolescents. Also, women are more susceptible to bunionette compared to men.
There are many different factors that increase the risk of developing a bunion, including:
- Foot injuries
- Inherited foot type
- Wearing high heels
- Wearing narrow shoes
- Tight muscles and tendons
- Uneven weight bearing, which makes a joint unstable
- Arthritis, notably rheumatoid arthritis
Symptoms of Bunions
Before you experience the symptoms, you will be able to notice changes in the foot. A bump will start to form on the outside of the foot, just below the big toe or the little toe. The most common symptoms include:
- New corns or calluses on other toes as your weight is poorly distributed
- Redness over the skin from rubbing on your shoes or originating deeper from inflammation at the joint
- Burning sensation
- Numbness around the bunion
- Pain and soreness over the bony area
- Swelling at the joint where the bunion formed, especially after being on your feet
- Thicker skin over the base of the affected toe
- Pain over the skin where the bunion rubs on your shoes
- Movement restriction in the affected joint
What Are Your Options for Bunion Treatment?
Unless you undergo a surgical procedure, bunions are permanent. However, there are less-invasive treatments available, which can help reduce the pain, delay the progression, and improve your foot`s flexibility. According to Ohio podiatrist Dr. Dina Stock told the Cleveland Clinic:
“For many people it may simply be a matter of wearing properly fitting shoes. Be sure to choose low-heeled, comfortable shoes that provide plenty of space for your toes and the widest part of your foot.”
6 Options for Treating Bunions at Home
Here are a few tips on how to reduce inflammation and reduce the stress over the bunion:
1. Reduce the Pressure
Reducing the pressure over the bunion helps relieve the pain. Wear shoes that provide space in the toe box and protect the bunion with a gel-filled pad or a moleskin.
2. Increase Circulation
Hot packs, warm socks, massage, ultrasound, and whirlpools can increase circulation to the affected area and promote healing.
3. Reduce the Inflammation
Turmeric, curcumin, and ice can help reduce the inflammation in the bunion and thus reduce the pain.
4. Improve Flexibility
In case of a bunion, the large toe is likely to become inflexible and you might lose your ability to move it a couple of degrees. While treating the affected toe might be tempting, it doesn’t provide the same results as treating the whole foot. Look for exercises that target the whole foot to improve flexibility.
5. Strengthen the Muscles
Strong muscles and flexibility are equally important. Regular foot exercises combined with improved flexibility can go a long way in improving your foot functions. Here are some of the best feet strengthening exercises:
- Roll a tennis ball or foam roller under your foot to stretch your plantar fascia. This is a tough tendon running from the ball of your foot to your heel.
- While barefoot, put your weight on your heels and spread your toes on both feet as far as you can. Do this while maintaining your balance.
- Pick up a washcloth or marbles with your toes to strengthen your arch.
- While barefoot, rise up on your toes, strengthening your calves and foot.
All of these exercises strengthen the muscles in the foot and reduce the risk of bunions and injuries.
Wearing a night splint is a good way to stretch the muscles surrounding the big toe. As the toe is held in the proper position and the muscles become flexible, the long bones in the foot are not being pulled out.
Pick the Right Shoe
If you are a fan of flip-flops, consider giving them up. As you walk in them, the toes increase their gripping action which causes tension in the toes.
Wearing no shoes at all is probably the best idea, as surrounding the feet with padding to correct any defects actually puts the foot in an unnatural position. Try to spend most of your time out of shoes.
You May Be Able to Prevent Bunions
Prevention is always better than the cure. Pay attention to the flexibility and the strength of the feet. Strengthening and stretching the muscles helps prevent the development of bunions, so practice stretches and strengthening exercises and avoid wearing high heels or tight shoes.