Your doctor can identify a bunion by examining your foot. After the physical exam, an X-ray of your foot can help your doctor identify the cause of the bunion and rate its severity.
Treatment options vary depending on the severity of your bunion and the amount of pain it causes.
Nonsurgical treatments that may relieve the pain and pressure of a bunion include:
- Changing shoes. Wear roomy, comfortable shoes that provide plenty of space for your toes.
- Padding and taping or splinting. Use over-the-counter, nonmedicated bunion pads. Also, your doctor can help you tape your foot in a normal position. This can reduce stress on the bunion and alleviate your pain.
- Medications. Acetaminophen (Tylenol, others), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) or naproxen sodium (Aleve) can help you control the pain of a bunion. Cortisone injections also might help.
- Shoe inserts. Padded shoe inserts can help distribute pressure evenly when you move your feet, reducing your symptoms and preventing your bunion from getting worse. Over-the-counter arch supports can provide relief for some people; others require prescription orthotic devices.
- Applying ice. Icing your bunion after you've been on your feet too long or if it becomes inflamed can help relieve soreness and inflammation.
If conservative treatment doesn't provide relief from your symptoms, you might need surgery. However, surgery isn't recommended unless a bunion causes you frequent pain or interferes with your daily activities.
There are numerous surgical procedures for bunions, and no one technique is best for every problem.
Surgical procedures for bunions might involve:
- Removing the swollen tissue from around your big toe joint
- Straightening your big toe by removing part of the bone
- Realigning the long bone between the back part of your foot and your big toe, to straighten out the abnormal angle in your big toe joint
- Joining the bones of your affected joint permanently
It's possible that you'll be able to walk on your foot immediately after a bunion procedure. However, full recovery can take weeks to months.
To prevent a recurrence, you'll need to wear proper shoes after recovery. For most people, it's unrealistic to expect to wear narrower shoes after surgery.
Talk to your doctor about what you can expect after bunion surgery.
Preparing for your appointment
You're likely to start by seeing your primary care doctor or a foot specialist (podiatrist or orthopedic foot specialist).
What you can do
To make the most of your time with your doctor, prepare a list of questions before your visit. Your questions might include:
- What's causing my foot problems?
- Is this condition likely to be temporary or permanent?
- What treatment approach do you recommend?
- Am I a candidate for surgery? Why or why not?
- Are there additional self-care steps that might help?
Don't hesitate to ask any other questions.
What to expect from your doctor
Some questions your doctor might ask include:
- When did you begin having foot problems?
- How much pain do you have in your foot?
- Where is the pain?
- What, if anything, seems to improve your symptoms?
- What, if anything, appears to worsen your symptoms?
- What type of shoes do you wear?