Your doctor can identify a bunion by examining your foot. After the physical exam, an X-ray of your foot can help your doctor determine the best way to treat it.
Treatment options vary depending on the severity of your bunion and how much 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. Over-the-counter, nonmedicated bunion pads or cushions may be helpful. They can act as a buffer between your foot and your shoe and ease 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 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 swelling. If you have reduced feeling or circulation problems with your feet, check with your doctor first before applying ice.
If conservative treatment doesn't relieve your symptoms, you might need surgery. Surgery is not recommended for cosmetic reasons; only when a bunion causes you frequent pain or interferes with your daily activities.
There are many surgical procedures for bunions, and no one technique is best for every problem.
Surgical procedures for bunions can be done as single procedures or in combination. They might involve:
- Removing the swollen tissue from around your big toe joint
- Straightening your big toe by removing part of the bone
- Realigning one or more bones in the forefoot to a more normal position to correct 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 right 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 other 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?