In speaking with patients about their bunions over the years, I have found that many search for a conservative (non-surgical) way to manage bunions. Whether they are scared to undergo surgery, don't feel they have time to recover, have had bad experiences with surgery in the past, or don't feel they are healthy enough to undergo surgery - they search the drug stores for a solution that will maintain their quality of life and maybe even make their foot look more "normal." Many people have asked me if a bunion splint will make their bunion go away. The unfortunate answer is no. Bunions are a reflection of years of poor biomechanics in the feet which cause abnormal forces in the bones and joints of the feet and also cause tendons to pull differently than they would in a foot that is "neutral." They are also genetically linked.
Once you have a bunion, it is there to stay unless you have surgery. That being said, bunions do not require surgery. If a bunion is present without pain, some people may choose never to have the bunion corrected. If a bunion is present with mild pain, there are solutions that can slow the progression of the deformity and also that can make you more comfortable - whether for the long-haul or until surgery is a more reasonable option for you. When a bunion is present with mild or no pain and you are worried about it getting worse, there are a few options.
One well-marketed solution is a bunion splint. As stated previously, this will not get rid of your bunion - no matter what the ad tells you! A bunion splint serves the purpose of mechanically shifting the big toe away from the second toe. This can alleviate pain from the two toes rubbing together and decreases the appearance of the bunion, as the bump on the inside aspect of the foot will not be as prominent once the big toe joint is better aligned. Having the joint better aligned can decrease degeneration of the joint-but this is all dependent on the stage of the bunion and the level of deformity already present. In our clinic, bunion splints are used post-surgically. They maintain the correction during the healing process and also provide compression to decrease post-operative swelling.
If you have a mild bunion that is only sometimes painful, but you worry about it getting worse - (I can see the bubble forming above your head with the image of your grandmother's feet and the concern that those will be your feet some day) - the best option for decreasing the progression of the deformity is either over-the-counter or custom orthotics. As stated earlier, biomechanics play a huge role in the development and progression of bunions. During walking/running, poor biomechanics come from the back of the foot (because we walk heel-to-toe). By maintaining proper alignment of the heel and providing support to the foot, orthotics can decrease the amount of abnormal strain on bones, joints, ligaments, and tendons that causes bunions.
Call and make an appointment today if you have concerns about bunions. We can discuss your bunion in specifics, describe the stage that your bunion is at, and make a tailored treatment plan for your condition.