The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

“Will Conservative Measures Heal My Bunion Pain?”

Posted by on Friday, August 8th, 2014

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Recently, a patient asked with some skepticism, “Will conservative measures really heal my bunion pain?” Like many people with bunions, she had noticed the unsightly lump for years, but she didn’t experience any discomfort. Then, BAM!– one day, the pain arrived, and it’s been an uphill battle ever since. Pain can quickly become a part of your everyday life when you have bunions and most shoes fail to fit all of a sudden. With all this talk about Cinderella surgeries that women have to acquire “designer” feet, it’s almost second nature to ask about bunion surgery right off the bat.

bunion
A bunion is a type of foot deformity that is mostly genetic, but is also affected by environmental factors. Image Source: Wikimedia.org

The truth is, we have a lot of helpful suggestions here at The Center for Podiatric Care & Sports Medicine that could help you out of your pain. However, if your bunion is seriously affecting the quality of your life and your activity level, then a variety of surgical procedures from one of our experienced, board-certified surgeons is certainly on the table.

Can A Bunion Correct Itself Over Time?

The average foot is not a static appendage, but rather, something that changes in structure over time due to a complex combination of genetic and environmental factors. When bunions develop, the soft tissues move out of the way and the big toe tilts or drifts away from a straight line, crowding the second toe. The first metatarsal bone then juts out, which is the bump you see.

Since the first metatarsal typically bears the brunt of a person’s weight as he or she walks, bunions tend to get worse, not better, without treatment.

Common complications include:

– Hammer toes

– Ingrown toenails

– Blisters, corns and calluses

– Arthritis

Shoes that are too tight can contribute to the development of bunion pain, but often, it is simply a matter of time as the toe joint gradually becomes overtaxed.

What Conservative Measures Should Patients Try For Bunion Pain?

Patients tend to think of surgery as a relatively “quick fix” or a real game-changer. While this may be true for some people, the decision to have surgery is unarguably more complex. Before going straight to surgery, our New York podiatrists may suggest one or more of the following conservative treatments:

– Changes to footwear: We can recommend several brands of shoe with wider toe boxes and soft leather uppers that will take pressure off your bunions.

– Pain relievers: Chances are, you have already tried acetaminophen or ibuprofen to control pain, but we may be able to give you a higher dose.

– Injections: In some cases, cortisone injections given at the toe joint can relieve severe and acute pain. This is especially true for those struggling with arthritis.

– Bunion splints: Some people may find that a splint adds padding, compression and comfort, while protecting the foot from shoe irritation.

Harvard researchers also recommend massage, whirlpool tubs, icing/heating, moleskin or gel pads, custom orthoses, and ultrasound therapy for relief.

What If Surgery Is Needed?

One review of published studies found that conservative treatments showed zero benefits over choosing not to treat the bunion at all (although the trials were small, and quality controls were admittedly “poor”). It is the opinion of many podiatrists that conservative methods are not necessarily required, especially if the patient is in tremendous pain or has a range of motion that has become seriously compromised as a result of the deformity. Runner’s World tells patients not to “fear the knife” if that happens to be their fate, explaining: “While foot surgery should usually be considered a last resort after conservative treatment has failed, there are times when surgery may allow a runner to return to training faster.”

The NYC foot surgeons at The Center for Podiatric Care & Sports Medicine are adept at multiple types of surgical procedures– including the minimally-invasive mini-tightrope procedure, which does not require any bone sawing. In cases involving arthritis, a replacement toe joint may be needed. We will choose the best type of procedure based on the severity of your bunion and the way your bones are positioned. We can do both feet at the same time or two different times– whichever you prefer. Click Here to book your consultation at our Manhattan or Westchester, NY facility today!

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If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.