Natural bunion treatment might help alleviate the pain and pressure of a bunion. Healthcare professionals usually advise nonsurgical treatment for bunions unless they are causing major problems.

A bunion can develop on the foot as a person gets older. They develop gradually when the big toe starts to lean toward adjacent toes and create a distorted appearance.

A lump forms on the side of the foot, at the base of the big toe, which can widen the base of the foot. This pressure may result in some of the other toes changing shape. Females are more likely to develop bunions than males.

Natural treatments for bunions might reduce pain and help reduce the risk of the condition becoming more severe. However, surgery is the only way to get rid of bunions completely.

Read on to learn more about how bunions develop, natural treatments for pain relief, and types of surgery.

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If a person suspects that a bunion is developing on their foot, they should consult a healthcare professional for advice.

Podiatrists treat atypical foot conditions and can recommend ways to reduce bunion pain or minimize growth. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons offers the following advice:

Wear shoes that fit well

As a basic rule of thumb, a person should choose shoes with broad toes, wide insteps, and soft soles. They should have both feet measured properly at the end of the day when feet are at their most swollen. When a person is wearing shoes, there should be about half an inch of space for their toes.

Consider orthotics and other devices

A person could try using custom-made or over-the-counter shoe inserts to take pressure off the bunion. They could also wear toe spacers and splints at nighttime to help reduce pain.

A 2021 review found that full-length orthotics with good arch support and a toe separator are the most effective at relieving pressure and pain.

Use padding

Protective bunion shield pads can provide cushioning for a painful bunion. A person should try these for a short time at first to make sure they help reduce pain rather than increase it.

Do exercises that strengthen and retrain muscles

A 2016 review in the Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy discusses the exercises a person can do to increase the range of motion in the foot, ankle, and toes. Other exercises can strengthen the muscles of the big toe and ankle.

A physical therapist might prescribe exercises to address muscle imbalances in other parts of the body that might increase pressure on a bunion.

Use ice therapy

Applying ice to a sore bunion for 20 minutes several times per day can help reduce swelling. A person should wrap ice in a thin cloth before applying it to the skin.

Use pain relief medication

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications such as naproxen and ibuprofen can help reduce pain and swelling.

If a bunion does not improve with natural treatment after a few weeks, a person should contact a medical professional for further advice. People should also take more care if they have diabetes, which can affect the feet.

If nonsurgical intervention does not reduce pain or the severity of the condition, a doctor might recommend surgery.

Surgical treatment options include:

  • Osteotomy: A surgeon makes small cuts in the bones and inserts pins, screws, or plates to realign the bones and joints.
  • Arthroplasty: In this procedure, a surgeon removes the enlarged part of the toe joint to increase the space between the bones. They may also use put an implant in place.
  • Arthrodesis: A surgeon will remove the affected areas of the joint and use screws, pins, or plates to hold the bones in place while they heal. Doctors often offer this type of surgery to people with severe arthritis or severe bunions.
  • Tendon and ligament repair: A surgeon can tighten or loosen ligaments around the big toe to help straighten it. A surgeon will usually do this alongside another alignment procedure, such as an osteotomy.
  • Exosectomy: This procedure involves removing the bump from the big toe. Surgeons usually perform an exosectomy alongside other corrective procedures.

A person will usually take a long time to recover after bunion surgery. While 85–90% of bunion surgery is effective, doctors do not guarantee that surgery will get rid of the bunion completely or straighten out the toes. The bunion could also return.

Learn more about bunion surgery here.

A hallux valgus, which is the medical term for a bunion, develops when the big toe bone or metatarsal gradually tilts toward the other metatarsals. This causes a lump to start forming on the joint at the base of the big toe.

Bunions may cause pain, but they can also be painless. If a person experiences pain, it is usually through the toes, along the bottom of the foot, or where the toe joint bulges. Wearing tight-fitting shoes can make the pain worse.

The bunion bulge can be very large relative to the size of the toe joint. In some cases, the joint becomes inflamed and swollen, and a person may find it hard to move the big toe. Bunions can also cause nerve damage, which can cause numbness in the affected area.

The exact cause of bunions is unknown. Possible causes include:

  • family health history
  • wearing ill-fitting shoes, especially tight shoes with high heels or pointed toes
  • having hypermobile joints
  • having a short Achilles tendon or calf muscles
  • having a condition that affects the joints, such as rheumatoid arthritis
  • having a condition that affects tissue, such as Ehlers-Danlos syndrome
  • having flat feet or splayfoot

People can reduce their risk of developing bunions by wearing shoes that fit well and allow their toes to move freely. Shoes should be flat-heeled and comfortable to wear.

Walking barefoot can help strengthen the foot muscles and give the feet space to find their natural position.

To relieve pressure on a bunion and reduce inflammation, a person can do the following:

  • Elevate the foot whenever possible.
  • Soak the foot in warm water with Epsom salts.
  • Apply ice, wrapped in a thin cloth, to the bunion.
  • Massage the whole foot area.
  • Stretch out shoes to fit the bunion.
  • Use protective bunion pads in shoes.
  • Try to maintain a moderate weight.

If a person finds that a bunion is restricting their mobility, they should seek the advice of a healthcare professional.

For some people, bunions are painless and do not cause significant mobility issues. However, for others, bunions can be painful and can lead to further problems, such as arthritis and mobility issues.

There is no way to get rid of a bunion without having surgery. While most surgery is effective, it does not always fix the problem or prevent a bunion from reforming.

Although bunions will not heal on their own, natural bunion treatment can help to alleviate the pain and pressure they cause. A person should talk with a doctor if their bunion is causing severe pain or other issues.

People can use padding and wear comfortable shoes to help reduce pressure on the big toe. A podiatrist might also recommend orthotics to make shoes more comfortable and supportive.

A person can strengthen the muscles around the foot and those that cause pressure on the foot by doing regular exercises.

A doctor might recommend surgery for severe bunions to straighten the toes and reshape the big toe joint.