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What is a Bunion?

Hallux valgus, more commonly referred to as a bunion, is a painful bony bump that develops slowly on the inside of the foot at the big toe joint. Pressure on the big toe joint makes the big toe lean toward the second toe. Over time, the normal structure of the foot changes, resulting in a bunion, which can make wearing shoes and walking painful or difficult.

The big toe is made up of two joints; the larger of the two is the metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint, which is where the first long bone of the foot meets the first bone of the toe. This is where bunions develop.

A bunion forms when the bones that make up the MTP joint move out of alignment. The MTP joint gets larger and protrudes from the inside of the forefoot. The enlarged joint is often inflamed. The word “bunion” comes from the Greek word for turnip, and the bump on the inside of the foot typically looks red and swollen like a turnip.

Bunion 2

Source: https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/globalassets/figures/a00155f03.jpg


Bunions may be caused by wearing poorly fitted shoes, such as heels with a pointed toe that forces the toes into an unnatural position, heredity (the shape or structure of the foot makes it more likely to develop bunions), or having an inflammatory condition, such as rheumatoid arthritis. Anyone can get a bunion, but they are more common in women. Many women wear tight, narrow shoes that squeeze the toes together, which make it more likely for a bunion to develop, worsen and cause painful symptoms.


A bunion that forms in the main joint of the little toe is called a bunionette, or “tailor’s bunion.” Although it is in a different spot on the foot, a bunionette is very much the same symptoms as a bunion.


  • A visible bump on the inside of the foot
  • Pain and tenderness
  • Redness and inflammation
  • Hardened skin on the bottom of the foot
  • A callus or corn on the bump
  • Stiffness and restricted motion in the big toe, which can lead to difficulty walking

How do you get rid of bunions?

Nonsurgical Treatment

In most cases, bunions are treated without surgery, which can help reduce pain and keep the bunion from worsening. Nonsurgical treatment cannot actually “reverse” a bunion. Nonsurgical treatments include:

  • Changes in footwear: bunion pain is relieved by wearing wider shoes that do not compress the toes. Some shoes can be modified by using a stretcher to stretch out the areas that put pressures on the toes.
  • Padding: pads can help cushion the painful area over the bunion and reduce pressure on the big toe.
  • Orthotics: wearing over-the-counter or custom-made shoe inserts (orthotics) can take pressure off a bunion. Toe spacers can be placed between the toes.
  • Icing: applying ice several times a day for 20 minutes at a time can help reduce swelling. Do not apply ice directly onto the skin.
  • Medications: nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen and naproxen can help relieve pain and reduce swelling.

Surgical Treatment

Bunion surgery is only recommended if other nonsurgical options have not provided relief. Surgery realigns the bone, ligaments, tendons, and nerves so that the big toe can be brought back to its correct position. No hospital stay is recommended after surgery. There are many different surgical methods, the best method of surgery is determined after an examination by one of Raleigh Orthopaedic’s foot and ankle specialists.


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Your well-being is important to us. Raleigh Orthopaedic is Wake County’s oldest and most experienced orthopedic practice, serving the Triangle and surrounding regions of central North Carolina since 1919. Raleigh Orthopaedic offers online scheduling so click the button below or call us at (919) 781-5600 to schedule an appointment with one of our orthopedic specialists. If your injury or condition is recent, you can walk right into one of our Raleigh Orthopaedic Urgent Care locations for immediate care. For rehabilitation and physical therapy, no referral is needed to see one of our physical therapists.

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