Bunion & Treatments

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A bunion is a thickened lump at the base of the big toe. It causes the big toe to move toward the smaller toes. It can make walking difficult.

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Bunions can happen because of:

  • Flat feet, which transfer too much weight to the MTP joint
  • Narrow-toed shoes and high heels
  • Certain neuromuscular diseases, such as cerebral palsy or multiple sclerosis
  • Marfan syndrome
  • Activities that put undue stress on the feet, such as ballet


Factors that increase your chance of getting a bunion include:

  • Family members who have foot abnormalities
  • Sex: female
  • Diabetes

You should seek medical attention if you have diabetes and you are having problems with your feet.

What a Bunion Feels & Looks Like

Symptoms include:

  • Tip of the big toe that turns in toward the other toes and may overlap the second or third toe
  • Firm bump on the outside edge of the foot or at the base of the big toe
  • Restricted or painful motion of the big toe
  • Foot pain and stiffness
  • Fluid-filled cyst between the skin and the bony lump

Bunion Treatment Without Surgery

The goals of treatment are to relieve pressure on the bunion and stop progression of the deformity. 

Padding & Taping

Padding the bunion may reduce pain and allow you to continue a normal, active life. Taping helps to keep the foot in a normal position, reducing stress and pain.


Medication can ease pain and inflammation, including:

  • Anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Cortisone injections

Proper Footwear

Wear shoes that are wide and deep in the toe area. Make sure the top of your shoe doesn't hit or rub against the bunion. You should only have a half-inch of space between your longest toe and your shoe.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy can relieve inflammation and pain. Ultrasound therapy is often used to treat bunions and related soft tissue problems.

Orthotics or Shoe Inserts

Shoe inserts may help maintain foot function. They may reduce symptoms and prevent worsening of the deformity.

Bunion Surgery

Surgery can relieve pressure and includes:

  • Removal of the bony lump
  • A more involved procedure to cut the bone and realign the joint

We consider surgery when:

  • Other treatments fail
  • The pain interferes with walking
  • The foot deformity makes walking difficult

Bunion removal complications could include:

  • Swelling
  • Infection
  • Bleeding
  • Toe may be misaligned or too short
  • The bunion may recur

Factors that may increase the risk of complications include:

  • Smoking and alcohol abuse
  • Diabetes
  • Poor nutrition
  • Poor health

The Bunion Surgery Procedure

In this procedure, the surgeon typically cuts into the foot near the bunion. Then, using a bone saw, the surgeon removes extra bone.

Sometimes, surgeons have to cut into the toe bone. The surgeon then realigns the bones so your toe no longer slants. You might need a metal pin, screw, or rod to hold the bones in place. 

What You Should Know About Bunion Removal

  • The procedure lasts from less than 30 minutes to over 2 hours
  • You may be released the same day or need to stay in the hospital overnight
  • Recovery can take 8 weeks


Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.