That bump on your big toe can not only make finding the right shoes a nightmare but also be really painful. Correcting a bunion may involve surgery, but what if you don't want to take that route? Having a bunion doesn’t mean that you have to miss out on dance night or hiking because of the pain. Foot exercises, chiropractic treatment, or some marigold therapy can help you get a grip on the discomfort they cause.
Bunions can be unsightly, painful, and plain mortifying if you have a thing for dainty sandals. A bunion, medically known as hallux valgus, is a bony protrusion on the base of your big toe. It develops when the big toe points toward the other toes, causing the joint where it attaches to the rest of the foot to stick out. Your shoes could put extra pressure on this joint, which eventually becomes inflamed and painful.1 Anyone can get a bunion, but it’s found more commonly in women, probably because of the style of shoes women use.2
Bunion May Cause
- pain, swelling, and reduced flexibility around your big toe joint;
- hard, thickened, reddish skin at the base of your big toe, and calluses and corns where the big toe overlaps with the second toe;
- distortions in the shape of your foot, which might make it difficult to find the right shoes.3
What Causes Bunions?
- There is a genetic component to developing bunions and you’re more likely to get them if others in your family have them. The foot structure that you’re born with makes you more prone to them.4
- Some kinds of arthritis – rheumatoid arthritis, gout, and psoriatic arthritis – can cause bunions. You can also develop arthritis in the toe if you have a bunion.
- Other conditions linked to flexible joints, loose ligaments, and poor muscle tone (for example, cerebral palsy and Marfan syndrome) increase your chances of developing a bunion.
- Wearing uncomfortable shoes can play a part in the development of bunions and make an existing bunion worse. In fact, bunions are uncommon among people who don’t wear shoes. If they’re too tight, shoes can cause your big toe to stay in a bent position, while high heels can cause the front of your foot to take most of your body’s weight, putting a lot of strain on your toe joints.5
What Can You Do About It?
The only way to correct a bunion completely is through surgery. Your doctor will recommend this if your bunion is interfering severely with the quality of your life and causing you a lot of pain. But even after surgery, 15% of bunions have been known to return.6 So what are your options if you don’t want to go down that road? Several non-invasive and natural ways can help treat the pain or discomfort caused by bunions.
Align and Protect
- Switch to low-heeled that are wide enough for your toes. This not only prevents the problem from aggravating but also often sorts it out.
- Using foam, felt, or gel bunion pads can stop your shoe from rubbing against your foot and protect the bunion.
- Some devices can help improve the alignment of the bones in your feet. For instance, bunion splints which go over the top of your big toe can straighten its alignment while toe spacers can separate your first and second toes. 7
Strengthen The Foot
Strengthening certain muscles in the foot and calf – which keep the arch of the foot from rolling inward, and support body weight as well as forward motion – can reduce pain and improve ease of movement in people with bunions. Three simple exercises can help:
- Short foot exercise: Shorten your foot by raising the arch of your feet, without curling your toes or lifting the heels.
- Toe spread: Lift and spread your toes while keeping the rest of the foot on the floor. Now, touch the floor with your little toe and then move your big toe to the inside of your foot.
- Heel raise: Bend your knees while standing and lift the arch of your foot. Now raise the heel while putting pressure on your big toe.
Hold each position for about 5 seconds and repeat the exercises till your muscles start to get tired.8
Certain yoga asanas like Parsvottanasana (intense side stretch), Trianga Mukhaikapada Paschimottanasan (three-limbed forward bend), Virasana (hero pose), and Janusirsasana (head-to-knee forward bend), done serially, can improve the tension of the abductor hallucis muscle, which pulls the big toe towards the second toe. Start these as early as you can for maximum benefit.9
Get Marigold Therapy
Creams, ointments, oils, or tinctures containing marigold are used in homeopathy to treat bunions. Your homeopathic doctor will apply medication on the bunion joint using a cavity pad once a week for about a month; this can be followed by home treatment using a prescribed tincture or oil for a few months.10 Marigold has anti-inflammatory and keratolytic (thinning the skin) properties and various studies have found that this treatment reduces inflammation and pain.11 Foot exercises and foot baths may also be incorporated into your homeopathic treatment plan.
Adjust The Pain
Chiropractic treatment, which primarily uses manipulation (adjustment) of the body’s structure (mainly spine) can improve foot function and pain in people with bunions. Treatment consists of mobilizing the joint between the big toe and the rest of the foot as well as adjusting other fixations in the foot and ankle. Ice is also used to bring relief.12
Get Some Essential Care
Aromatherapy recommends massaging the bunion with 3 or 4 drops of undiluted essential oils like frankincense, balsam fir, lemon, or lavender. After the massage, cover the bunion with a moist, warm cloth for a few minutes. This should ideally be repeated 2–3 times a day. You could also soak your feet in some warm water with Epsom salt and massage a couple of drops of undiluted lemon essential oil on the bunion after your foot is dry. This will soothe the bunion and reduce swelling and inflammation.13
References [ + ]
|1, 3, 4.||↑||Bunions, National Institutes of Health. 2016.|
|2, 6, 8.||↑||Alerts, J. O. S. P. T. “Bunion: Strengthening Foot Muscles to Reduce Pain and Improve Mobility.” Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy 46, no. 7 (2016): 606.|
|5.||↑||Bunion – Causes, National Health Service.2014.|
|7.||↑||Bunions, National Institutes of Health.|
|9.||↑||Wainapel, Stanley F., Stephanie Rand, Loren M. Fishman, and Jennifer Halstead-Kenny. “Integrating complementary/alternative medicine into primary care: evaluating the evidence and appropriate implementation.” International journal of general medicine 8 (2015): 361.|
|10.||↑||Give your feet a break this summer, British Homeopathic Association.|
|11.||↑||Hadfield, Robert A., and Tracey C. Vlahovic. “The use of marigold therapy for podiatric skin conditions.” therapy 11 (2008): 12.|
|12.||↑||Brantingham, James W., Sioban Guiry, Heidi H. Kretzmann, Victoria J. Kite, and Gary Globe. “A pilot study of the efficacy of a conservative chiropractic protocol using graded mobilization, manipulation and ice in the treatment of symptomatic hallux abductovalgus bunion.” Clinical Chiropractic 8, no. 3 (2005): 117-133.|
|13.||↑||Press, Sonoma. Essential Oils & Aromatherapy, An Introductory Guide: More Than 300 Recipes for Health, Home and Beauty. Arcas Publishing, 2014.|