Notice a bony bump at the joint of your big toe that won’t go away? You may just have a bunion, which is a common condition in Singapore that can affect people of all ages and genders. Also known as hallux valgus, bunions arise when pressure on the big toe joint causes the big toe to shift towards the second toe, resulting in a painful bump. Smaller bunions called bunionettes may also develop on the joint of your pinky toe.
For mild cases, self-treatment to manage pain is sufficient for mild cases, but as the joint misalignment worsens over time, foot surgery may be required. Let’s take a closer look at the causes of bunions and ways you can alleviate your bunion pain on your own.
Causes of Bunions
The causes of bunions can be broadly categorised as hereditary, or as a result of pre-existing medical conditions and one’s lifestyle.
- Hereditary: Bunions can run in families due to inherited bone shape and structure, which increase the likelihood of developing bunions.
- Medical: Individuals with conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, gout, neuromuscular diseases (e.g. muscular dystrophy), and foot problems such as flat feet or collapsed arches face a higher risk of getting bunions.
- Lifestyle: Long hours of standing and walking, and wearing inappropriate footwear such as high heels or shoes that are too tight and narrow for your foot are key culprits of bunions as well. While bunions can affect anyone, they are more commonly found among women due to the prevalent use of high-heeled shoes.
Bunions do not resolve on their own, but palliative self-care can be done to relieve pain successfully without surgery. Here are several treatments you can try to reduce your discomfort.
5 Tips for Pain Relief
1. Wear Well-Fitting Shoes
Bunion symptoms and pain are usually caused by the pressure of your shoe, with the material pressing down against your bunion, leading to swelling and inflammation. If your shoes are too narrow, they will also push your big toe inwards, further worsening the deformity. We recommend buying shoes that fit your foot comfortably, with a wide toe area and low heel.
2. Use Ice Packs & Warm Foot Soaks
Just as you would ice a bruise, try icing the bunion area after a long day on your feet. This helps to reduce pain and irritation. Doing ice therapy consistently for 10 minutes or so every night can relieve the inflammation of your bunion. Alternatively, you can soak your feet in a relaxing warm water soak with some Epsom salt.
3. Reduce Friction with a Protective Gel Pad
You can usually find bunion gel pads or cushions in most pharmacies and health retailers. These pads are made of a soft silicone material and designed to relieve pressure on the affected joint. They work by redistributing pressure away from the joint and prevent your bunion from rubbing directly against your shoe.
4. Take Over-the-Counter Medication
Taking painkillers such as Panadol (paracetamol) can help to relieve pain. You can also take other non-steroidal painkillers like ibuprofen and naproxen as they have anti-inflammatory properties to reduce swelling at the same time.
5. Try Gentle Toe Exercises
Toe exercises are a form of physical therapy you can easily do while watching TV or working at your desk. They help keep the joint between your big toe and the rest of your foot mobile, strengthening muscles and improving flexibility. Some exercises you can try include simple stretches, toe lifts and toe points and curls.
When Should I See a Doctor For My Bunion?
If your pain persists or worsens, even after trying numerous home remedies, it’s best to consult with an orthopaedic doctor. For severe cases, foot bunion surgery may be the most appropriate treatment to correct the deformity and realign the toe joint. Minimally invasive surgery or keyhole surgery is also a lower cost option to remove bony growth using small keyholes.
The outlook of bunions depends on each individual, but with a few simple lifestyle adjustments and preventative measures, you can slow down the progression of bunions and prevent future ones from developing. If you’d like to learn more about bunion treatments in Singapore, feel free to contact us at OrthofootMD.