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Bunions – Symptoms, Causes, And Natural Treatments

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Bunions – Symptoms, Causes, And Natural Treatments October 23, 2018

Bunions are one of the most common forefoot deformities, with a prevalence of 23% to 35% (1).

This deformity causes a bony bump to appear at the base of your big toe and often makes it difficult and painful for you to wear shoes. Delaying the treatment of bunions will worsen the condition and aggravate the inflammation and pain. So, you need to treat them as soon as possible. Read on to know more about bunions and a few amazing natural remedies that can be used to treat them.

Table Of Contents

What Are Bunions?

A bunion is a bony bump that surfaces on the base of your big toe. Many people have their big toe leaning inwards to the toe next to it. With time, the joint of your big toe pushes against the first metatarsal bone located right behind it. This constant pushing results in the formation of a bunion – a painful and bony lump at the base joint of your big toe. A bunion is also medically known as hallux valgus.

You may also find smaller bunions (also referred to as bunionettes) on the joint of the little toe.

The signs and symptoms associated with the formation of a bunion are listed below.

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Signs And Symptoms

  • A bump bulging outwards at the base of your big toe
  • Swelling and redness around the base of the big toe
  • Development of corns or calluses where your big toe overlaps the toe next to it
  • Pain around the bunion that may be persistent or intermittent
  • Restricted movement of the affected toe (if you have arthritis)

While the exact cause behind the formation of a bunion remains unknown, the following are some of the theories about how they may develop.

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Causes And Risk Factors For Bunions

Factors believed to be contributing to the development of bunions are:

  • An inherited foot shape
  • Injuries to the foot
  • Congenital foot deformities

Some factors may also put an individual at a higher risk of developing bunions. They are:

  • High heeled shoes
  • Shoes that don’t fit properly
  • Medical condition like rheumatoid arthritis
  • Heredity

If you doubt that you have developed a bunion, consult a doctor for further assistance.

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Diagnosis

Your doctor may first conduct a physical examination to identify a bunion. You may then be asked to take an X-ray of your foot to identify the cause and observe the severity of the condition.

Based on the diagnosis, your doctor may prescribe any of the following medical treatments.

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Medical Treatment Options

Treatment may include surgical or non-surgical intervention – depending on the severity of the bunion.

Non-surgical treatment options may include:

  • Changing your shoes
  • Using bunion pads or a tape to correct the position of your foot to reduce stress on the bunion
  • Medications like acetaminophen (Tylenol), naproxen (Aleve), or ibuprofen (Advil) for relieving pain
  • Acupuncture
  • Padded shoe inserts or over-the-counter arch support to distribute pressure evenly on the feet
  • Topical application of an ice pack to relieve inflammation

When non-surgical treatments don’t help, you may need to opt for surgical techniques like:

  • Removal of the swollen tissue around the big toe
  • Removing a part of the big toe bone to straighten your toe
  • Realignment
  • Joining the bones of the affected joint

You can also give the following home remedies a shot to help the non-surgical medical treatments work better.

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How To Treat Bunions Naturally

  1. Ice Compress
  2. Padding
  3. Change Shoes
  4. Essential Oils
  5. Epsom Salt
  6. Bay Leaf Tea
  7. Cherry Juice
  8. Vinegar

Home Remedies To Get Rid Of Bunions

1. Ice Compress

Ice Compress Pinit

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You Will Need

Ice pack

What You Have To Do
  1. Take an ice pack and place it on the bunion.
  2. Remove after 10 to 15 minutes.
How Often You Should Do This

Do this 2 to 3 times daily.

Why This Works

An ice pack helps constrict your vessels, thereby helping to numb pain, swelling, and symptoms of inflammation (2).

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2. Padding

Padding Pinit

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You can also buy over-the-counter bunion pads to facilitate healing. These pads or cushions ease the pressure on your bunions by forming a protective cushion over them and provide relief from pain all day long.

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3. Change Shoes

If you wear pointed shoes, especially the ones with heels, they could be responsible for triggering the bunions on your feet. Tight or ill-fitting shoes can also contribute to the development of bunions. Hence, it is recommended that you wear comfortable shoes that fit you properly to prevent a bunion from causing further damage to your foot (3).

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4. Essential Oils

a. Lemon Oil

Lemon Oil Pinit

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You Will Need
  • 3-4 drops of lemon oil
  • 2 teaspoons of coconut oil (or any other carrier oil)
What You Have To Do
  1. Add three to four drops of lemon oil to two teaspoons of coconut oil.
  2. Mix well and massage it into the affected area.
  3. Leave it on for at least 30 minutes before rinsing it off.
  4. You can also leave the mixture on overnight.
How Often You Should Do This

Do this 1 to 2 times daily.

Why This Works

Lemon oil possesses anti-inflammatory properties that can help alleviate inflammation and swelling associated with bunions (4).

b. Eucalyptus Oil

Eucalyptus Oil Pinit

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You Will Need
  • 3-4 drops of eucalyptus oil
  • 1-2 teaspoons of coconut oil (or any other carrier oil)
What You Have To Do
  1. Mix eucalyptus oil with coconut oil or any other carrier oil in the specified quantities.
  2. Apply the mixture to the affected area.
  3. Leave it on for at least 30 minutes before rinsing it off.
  4. You can also leave the oil on overnight.
How Often You Should Do This

You can do this twice daily.

Why This Works

Eucalyptus oil is derived from the eucalyptus plant. This essential oil exhibits anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties that help in reducing the inflammation associated with bunions (5).

c. Peppermint Oil

Peppermint Oil Pinit

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You Will Need
  • 3-4 drops of peppermint oil
  • 1-2 teaspoons of coconut oil (or any other carrier oil)
What You Have To Do
  1. To two teaspoons of any carrier oil, add three to four drops of peppermint oil.
  2. Mix well and apply it to the affected area.
  3. Leave it on for at least 30 minutes before rinsing it off.
  4. You can also leave the mixture on overnight.
How Often You Should Do This

Do this at least twice daily for optimum benefits.

Why This Works

The major constituent of peppermint essential oil is menthol. Menthol exhibits powerful anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce the swelling, pain, and redness that surface with the development of bunions (6).

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5. Epsom Salt

Epsom Salt Pinit

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You Will Need
  • 1 cup of Epsom salt
  • Water
  • A bucket
What You Have To Do
  1. Fill a bucket with warm water.
  2. Add a cup of Epsom salt to the water and allow it to dissolve.
  3. Soak your feet in the Epsom mixture for at least 15 minutes.
How Often You Should Do This

Do this once daily or every alternate day.

Why This Works

Epsom salt is mainly composed of magnesium. Magnesium helps reduce the inflammatory cytokines in your body and can help soothe the inflammation and pain in the affected area (7).

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6. Bay Leaf Tea

Bay Leaf Tea Pinit

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You Will Need
  • 1 tablespoon of bay leaves
  • 300 mL of water
What You Have To Do
  1. Add a tablespoon of bay leaves to 300 mL of water.
  2. Bring it to a boil in a saucepan.
  3. Simmer for 5 minutes and strain.
  4. Steep the tea overnight.
  5. Strain it the next morning and transfer to a flask.
  6. Sip on a little bay leaf tea throughout the day.
  7. Save some tea for the next 2 days.
How Often You Should Do This

Consume the bay leaf tea for three days and then take a break for 10 days. Repeat the process for 2 months.

Why This Works

This remedy is sought-after by many and is believed to relieve the pain associated with bunions in just two months. The anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties of bay leaves help in this aspect (8).

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7. Cherry Juice

Cherry Juice Pinit

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You Will Need

1 cup of tart cherry juice

What You Have To Do

Consume a cup of tart cherry juice.

How Often You Should Do This

Drink this juice twice daily until you notice an improvement in your condition.

Why This Works

Cherries exhibit aspirin-like anti-inflammatory properties when it comes to relieving pain and inflammation. Thus, they are an excellent remedy to treat bunions (9).

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8. Vinegar

Vinegar Pinit

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You Will Need
  • ¼ cup of white vinegar
  • 1 cup of water
  • A clean washcloth
What You Have To Do
  1. Add one-fourth cup of vinegar to half a cup of water.
  2. Mix well and soak a clean washcloth in it.
  3. Wring out the excess solution and place the washcloth over the bunion.
  4. Leave it on for 20 to 30 minutes.
How Often You Should Do This

Do this once daily.

Why This Works

Vinegar is anti-inflammatory. It can help alleviate the inflammation, swelling, and pain that surface with the onset of bunions (10).

Once you have managed to treat a bunion, it is important that you stick to a few tips to prevent recurrence. Listed below are some helpful prevention tips.

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Prevention Tips

  • Continue wearing well-fitting and comfortable shoes.
  • Insert a gel or customized orthotics in the shoe of the affected foot.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Follow a healthy diet that contains all the significant vitamins and minerals.
  • Use splints before bedtime to try and align the toes and joints.
  • Remove the corns and calluses of your toes (if any).
  • Avoid wearing high heels and narrow, pointed shoes.
  • Practice exercises that are meant to strengthen the toes.

Bunions are not just unsightly to look at, but they can also cause constant pain and end up interfering with your day to day life if left untreated for too long. However, there is a wide range of options to treat this bone deformity. Use the remedies discussed in this post in conjunction with medical treatment to prevent the bunions from progressing further.

Hope you found this article useful. For any more queries, ping us in the comment box below.

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Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions

When is surgery needed for bunions?

When the conservative (or non-surgical) treatments don’t work, you may have to opt for surgery to get relief from the painful and inflammatory symptoms of bunions.

What are the best shoes for bunions?

Shoes that are meant for walking with softer soles and more space are apt for those suffering from bunions.

What are the different types of surgical options available for treating bunions?

Depending on the severity of the bunion, your doctor may ask you to undergo any of the following surgical procedures:
• Removal of the swollen tissue around the big toe
• Removing a part of the big toe bone to straighten your toe
• Realignment
• Joining the bones of the affected joint

Does walking barefoot help bunions?

Yes, walking barefoot can help alleviate symptoms of bunions. This is because, when you walk barefoot, your toes and feet can expand freely without being restricted.

References

  1. The Treatment of Hallux Valgus” Deutsches Ärzteblatt International, US National Library of Medicine
  2. Effect of local cold-pack application on systemic anabolic and inflammatory response to sprint-interval training: a prospective comparative trial” European Journal of Applied Physiology, US National Library of Medicine
  3. “’Choosing shoes’: a preliminary study into the challenges facing clinicians in assessing footwear for rheumatoid patients” Journal of Foot and Ankle Research, US National Library of Medicine
  4. Anti-Inflammatory Properties and Chemical Characterization of the Essential Oils of Four Citrus Species” PLOS One, US National Library of Medicine
  5. Analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects of essential oils of Eucalyptus” Journal of Ethnopharmacology, US National Library of Medicine
  6. Chemical Composition and Anti-Inflammatory, Cytotoxic and Antioxidant Activities of Essential Oil from Leaves of Mentha piperita Grown in China” PLOS One, US National Library of Medicine
  7. Magnesium Decreases Inflammatory Cytokine Production: A Novel Innate Immunomodulatory Mechanism” Journal of Immunology, US National Library of Medicine
  8. Analgesic and anti-inflammatory activity of the leaf essential oil of Laurus nobilis Linn.” Phytotherapy Research, US National Library of Medicine
  9. Cherry juice targets antioxidant potential and pain relief” Medicine and Sport Science, US National Library of Medicine
  10. Anti-obesity and anti-inflammatory effects of synthetic acetic acid vinegar and Nipa vinegar on high-fat-diet-induced obese mice” Scientific Reports, US National Library of Medicine
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