What to do with swollen bunions?

20 de November de 2023

What to do when bunions hurt? Can Bunion Inflammation be Prevented?

Bunions are a common pathology that can cause discomfort and affect quality of life. In Europe, up to 30% of the population lives with bunions.

Understanding the nature of bunions and the causes of their inflammation is key to taking care of the health of your feet.

What are bunions?

Bunions, also known as hallux valgus, are bony protrusions that can develop at the base of the big toe. They form when the metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint at the base of the big toe loses its alignment, causing the toe to tilt toward the second toe. Over time, this deviation leads to the formation of a bony bump on the side of the foot near the big toe. There is also a related condition called bunionette, or tailor’s bunion, which is a bunion on the outside of the fifth toe. In this article, we will refer to bunions of the big toe.

These bony protrusions can vary in size and severity. For some, bunions may be painless and cause only cosmetic concerns, but for others, bunions can be painful and limit mobility.

It is important to note that bunions can progress and worsen over time if left untreated. Early intervention and proper management can help alleviate symptoms and prevent further progression. If you suspect you have a bunion, it is prudent to consult with our bunion experts for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment options.

Inflamed bunions: causes and symptoms

Most people only think of a bunion as a bony bump on the outside of the foot. However, there is much more going on beneath the surface. The metatarsals (long bones of the foot) put pressure on the surrounding soft tissues and ligaments of the foot, which can result in inflammation and pain.

While some people do not experience painful symptoms of bunions, the pain and discomfort of swollen bunions can interfere with daily activities.

What causes inflammation in bunions?

Inflamed bunions can occur due to a variety of factors. The main cause is the deviation of the big toe which puts pressure on the surrounding tissue.

The bony bump of a bunion can also be irritated by rubbing against tight, narrow shoes or being compressed in high-heeled, narrow-toed shoes. This pressure and friction can irritate the skin and potentially inflame the tissues around the big toe joint.

Patients with rheumatoid arthritis are also at increased risk for bunion inflammation. This is because your joints are already prone to inflammation.

What are the treatment options for inflamed bunions?

female feet with bunion
female feet with bunion

At Clínica San Román, we recognize that although there are several ways to alleviate the symptoms and reduce the inflammation of bunions, the only definitive and lasting solution is surgical treatment. With over 40 years of experience, our minimally invasive surgical techniques offer effective and safe results. Although we try to avoid bunion surgery, in cases where non-surgical treatments are not sufficient, surgical intervention becomes the best option.

When we detect a mild grade bunion, we have many non-surgical treatment options to relieve your pain and slow the progression of the bunion. We recommend wearing shoes that fit properly and have a wide toe box to avoid friction and irritation of the bunion. Bunion pads, splints, insoles and toe separators can help keep the first toe in a normal position or relieve pressure on the bunion, thus reducing swelling.

For especially painful bunions, our experts also provide custom silicone orthotics, designed to provide support and cushioning for your feet. However, it is important not to postpone medical consultation, as the bunion may continue to progress. In cases of severe bunions, our minimally invasive surgical techniques are the most effective solution to restore function and permanently relieve pain.

Pain management for inflamed bunions

Although surgery is the only definitive solution for bunions, there are ways to manage the pain associated with this condition. It is important to remember that even after successful surgical treatment, it is possible to experience temporary discomfort in situations such as wearing tight shoes during a formal event, spending a long day on your feet or not wearing recommended orthoses.

In these cases, to relieve occasional pain, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs(NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen or naproxen may be helpful. These drugs can reduce inflammation and consequently reduce pain.

In addition, the use of ice packs can be effective in reducing soft tissue swelling and relieving pain in the area affected by bunions. These measures can be especially beneficial during the post-surgical recovery period or in cases of mild bunion-related pain.


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