People who live with bunions can become desperate for relief from the pain and discomfort they cause with every step. If a medication, product, or treatment purports to provide some respite from bunion pain, sufferers will understandably want to give it a shot. Unfortunately, not all bunion treatments are created equal. While there are many non-surgical, minimally invasive, and surgical options that can effectively minimize or resolve bunion pain, there are also products that claim to do so but simply won’t. That includes bunion splints.
Why Bunions Develop and Why Splints Don’t Work
The big toe has two crucial joints. The metatarsophalangeal joint (MTP) is the larger of the two joints and connects the first long bone of the foot ( the metatarsal) to the first bone of the toe (the phalanx). Bunions form because the MTP joint shifts out of its normal alignment, pushing the long metatarsal bone towards the inside of the foot. This misalignment also forces the phalanx bones of the big toe inwards towards the second toe.
Over time, this misalignment will get more pronounced and cause a sensitive bony bump that looks swollen and red to emerge at the site of the joint on the inside of your foot. Eventually, the pain and the protrusion caused by the bunion may become more intense and consistent. That is because bunions are a degenerative condition, meaning they will continue to get worse and become more painful without effective treatment.
But bunion splints do nothing to fix the underlying condition or stop it from progressing. While a splint may give your toes a little temporary breathing room while you wear it, your big toe will continue on its slow journey inward. While a splint may slightly relieve discomfort, there is simply no evidence to support its use as a cure or treatment for bunions.
Effective Non-Surgical Treatments For Bunion Pain
Even though bunion splints do not work, and while some cases may require surgery, several alternative treatments can alleviate bunion pain. For many patients, we can provide long-lasting relief with non-surgical approaches and lifestyle changes, including:
- Loose or open-toe shoes. Bunion pain can increase when you restrict your foot to a tight-fitting or narrow shoe. Overly restrictive footwear or high heels push toes forward, creating pressure and friction. Switch to open-roed or looser fitting shoes whenever possible and try to select shoes made of leather rather than synthetic materials.
- Icing. Applying cold helps constrict blood vessels and reduce inflammation, which is the source of much of your bunion pain. Use an icepack or even a bag of frozen peas in a washcloth and apply it to the toe joint for 10 to 20 minutes.
- Anti-inflammatory medications. To further minimize swelling and reduce pain, pick up some over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or naproxen. For severe bunions, a cortisone injection directly to the joint can be a more powerful way to reduce inflammation.
- Protective pads. Insert a gel or moleskin pad into your shoes to cushion the bunion and protect it from friction.
- Orthotics. Molded shoe inserts that you can buy at your local pharmacy can help correct the mechanics that cause a bunion to form. Custom orthotics made specifically for your feet may be the next step if OTC products don’t work.
If these more conservative treatments don’t provide the desired relief, we will then consider minimally invasive bunion surgery as an alternative.
Living With Bunion Pain? Schedule an Appointment With JAWSpodiatry Today
At JAWSpodiatry in Hollywood, Florida, we utilize the most advanced and non-invasive techniques to reduce pain and speed recovery for individuals suffering from foot and ankle problems, including bunions. If you’d like to learn more about the innovative and effective treatments we provide or how we can help you with your foot and ankle issues, please call us today at (954) 922-7333 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.