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Treatment & Relief for Bunions

by Jaydee Vykoukal, PT, DPT January 31, 2020 0 Comments

Bunions are a common toe dysfunction and can lead to localized pain, stiffness, poor lower body mechanics, and other complications that affect your quality of life. By understanding how to get rid of bunions its possible to relieve and even prevent some of the worst symptoms, letting you walk without worry. Continue reading to find out more about effective treatment for bunions.

Home Remedies & Care

Unless your bunion is severe, home care is a great way to treat it. A home regimen is always a great place to start if you experience any problems related to a bunion.


If you have been ignoring ongoing symptoms of stiffness, inflammation, and pain in the foot, it may be time for some rest. Inflammation in a joint is usually a sign that the body is trying to heal itself. If you give your body the time it needs to rest and heal, you should notice your symptoms start to gradually dissipate.

What rest means for you depends on your current activity level. It may mean swapping your shoes, spending less time standing, or taking a break from higher-impact exercise activities. How long you need to rest depends on the severity of the symptoms, ranging from one day to several weeks. After a period of rest, start incorporating exercise and movement back in as tolerated.

Bunion Exercises

Typically, exercise is the most important component is bunion management. It will promote circulation and decrease overall stiffness in the foot and ankle when the right exercises are chosen. Always focus on keeping good joint alignment to promote optimized body mechanics as well.

Exercises typically includes foot and toe range of motion, stretches, strengthening to promote better-balanced toe and foot use, standing balance exercises, and coordination training with normal daily activities.

Find the most effective bunion exercises here.

Bunion Massage

Massage can provide great relief for a stiff, sore foot and toe by promoting circulation and relaxation. Massage techniques can vary depending on your specific needs. You can self-massage the foot (usually focusing on the arch) with a home tool. A massage therapist can focus on the tendons and ligaments of the toe directly or take a more global approach of promoting relief throughout the lower leg.

Massage Techniques for Bunion Pain

Cold Therapy

Ice can help reduce swelling and provide pain relief. The two most common options are an ice pack for 10-15 minutes or ice massage with a frozen dixie cup for 5 minutes, directly at the bunion. You can use ice several times throughout your day to maximize its effect. It’s a great way to prepare for higher impact activities that may aggravate it or just afterward to minimize the effects. Just be careful not to push yourself too hard when your toe is numb from cold therapy.

Non-Surgical Treatments

If home remedies just aren’t enough, there are many options that can help boost your recovery and get you feeling better as soon as possible.

Pain Relievers

Typically, anti-inflammatory medications, or NSAIDs, are easy to use over the counter option for managing new symptoms or a flare-up. Taking ibuprofen, naproxen, or other recommended NSAIDs can decrease swelling and alleviate pain. Plus, they can improve your tolerance for other treatment options and your ability to complete normal daily activities. As with any option that provides pain relief, just be aware of your activity level to make sure you aren’t pushing yourself too hard.

Bunion Splints and Toe Spacers

While the research behind toe splints and spacers is limited, when a bunion is in its early stages, they show some potential. The theory is that the toe splint or spacer can help correct the placement of toes. With mild to moderate cases, it can also provide relief to the toes via prolonged stretching of otherwise mal-aligned toes. With proper education and movement awareness, the big toe may be able to better align itself. However, it is more likely that these options will prevent progressions and potentially provide symptom relief.


Bunions are correlated to poor foot and ankle alignment and flat feet. Thus, the use of an orthotic, bunion splint, supportive shoe to help manage these problems can promote overall better foot mechanics and posture. A shoe insert can provide arch support, stabilize the heel with movement, reduce the load at the base of the big toe, and more. This can relieve pressure on the big toe and prevent further complications.

Change Your Footwear

The type of shoes you choose to wear can also greatly affect your bunions. High heels and shoes that are too tight can actually perpetuate and progress bunions. Thus, try to choose comfortable shoes with minimal heel and good sole support. Lastly, a wide enough toe box in the shoe will allow the foot to move freely and minimize the risk of skin irritation, calluses, and bunion progression.

Moleskin Bandages

Skin irritation at the bunion itself or where the toes overlap can lead to abrasions from either skin on skin or skin on shoe friction. To minimize irritation and prevent aggravation, a protective layer, such as a moleskin bandage, can prevent these injuries. Preventing foot sores is of particular importance when dealing with other common chronic illnesses such as diabetes.

When to Seek Medical Care

Most cases of bunions can be resolved with home care, but if symptoms persist, seek medical advice. Talking to a professional, such as a podiatrist or physical therapist, can help you better understand the underlying issues that are causing your bunion. While most people assume bunions are structural, hereditary, and hard to manage, the right care can help you take control of your symptoms and definitely prevent future complications.

Bunion Surgery

If conservative treatment fails and a severe bunion is affecting your quality of life, a surgical procedure is a viable option. A bunionectomy focuses on removing the bony bump in the foot to realign the toe and all affected joints, ligaments, and tendons. Unfortunately, is not always effective. If other underlying issues are not addressed, it may quickly revert back to its deformed position

Cortisone Injections

For irritation of the toe bursae or big toe joints themselves, cortisone injections may be an option. They can reduce inflammation, promote healing and get you back on track with other treatment options. Chronic use of cortisone for treating pain has been controversially shown to have detrimental effects on tissue health and body function. Thus, consider your options and get one only when necessary.


While imaging options like x-ray or MRI, aren’t typically necessary, one might be ordered if there are severe symptoms or risk of more serious injuries such as a fracture. You can talk to your doctor about this option as needed.

Safe and Effective Treatment for Bunions

As with any development of pain or dysfunction, the key is to listen to your own body. When you tune in and pay attention to how you’re body is moving and feeling, either on your own or with the help of a professional, you will quickly make improvements. Finding a balance of home remedies and medical advice will keep you on track in the treatment process. 




Next Pages:

Bunion Exercises


Jaydee Vykoukal, PT, DPT
Jaydee Vykoukal, PT, DPT

JayDee Vykoukal is a Doctor of Physical Therapy, owner of the healthy habit platform Health Means Wealth, and freelance medical writer. She loves traveling and spending time with her family in nature. Her passion is helping others continue to participate in the activities they love through education and proper exercise.

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