A bunion is a painful and often swollen bony bump on the side of your big toe. It can be caused by wearing shoes that don’t fit properly and result in your toes being pushed together.

If you have a bunion, your big toe may point toward the other toes instead of straight ahead. The joint at the base of your big toe gets more prominent, causing a bump on top of it. Sometimes the joint swells so much that it looks like a sausage on your foot.

If you have bunions, taking steps to reduce pain and swelling is essential. If you don’t treat them early on, they may get worse over time and become more challenging to treat. The following are some tips for dealing with bunions:

Conservative Treatments

The most common conservative treatment for a bunion is a bunion splint or a bunion brace. A bunion splint is a soft fabric sleeve worn on the foot that keeps your big toe from rubbing against the other toes. The big toe is pushed down toward the second toe, preventing it from sticking out.

A bunion brace can be made from plastic or metal and often includes a pad to cushion the big toe and stop it from rubbing against other toes. Some braces have adjustable pads that you can move up or down to accommodate swelling as your injury heals.

Conservative treatments may also include special shoe inserts to help relieve pressure on your sore spots. These can be bought at most drug or medical supply stores without a prescription. They come in all shapes and sizes, but they usually look like a small pad inside the shoe under the bunion area, on top of your heel.

Surgical Options

Bunion surgery is an option for people with significant bunions who cannot control their symptoms with conservative treatment. Surgery may be necessary if the bunion causes pain or changes your foot’s shape.

Bunion surgery aims to realign the joint, so your big toe can straighten and fit appropriately inside your shoe. The surgeon often removes bone, tendon, or tissue to make room for the big toe. This procedure is called a resection osteotomy.

After Surgery, You Can Expect:

Pain during recovery. You may need pain medications for a few weeks after surgery, ice packs, and elevation for swelling. A cast or splint may help keep your foot in proper position after surgery until the swelling goes down and you can move it freely again.

A small amount of permanent numbness around your big toe joint or on top of your foot (if the nerve was cut). This can cause mild discomfort in these areas when you wear shoes that don’t fit properly after surgery, such as high heels or narrow-toed shoes. If this happens, try wearing more comfortable shoes until the numbness disappears (about 6 months).

Maintain a Healthy Weight

Wearing tight shoes can cause the bunion to become more pronounced. To help prevent bunions, wear shoes that fit correctly and are appropriate for your activity level. For example, if you are a runner or walker, wear well-cushioned athletic shoes with plenty of room in the toe box.

If you’re overweight, losing weight can help reduce pressure on the big toe joint and relieve pain from a bunion. If your weight prevents you from exercising, talk to your doctor about an exercise program that’s right for you.