Bunions are a common culprit for foot pain, with little remedy beyond surgery. High heels, pointed toes, and tight shoes that poorly position the foot contribute to the problem, but the cause is body mechanics. This could be a hereditary issue or it may be self-imposed and exacerbated by footwear that distributes our body weight unnaturally. This limits the normal movement of the muscles and tendons. That creates stress on muscles, tendons, and joints. In response, the first metatarsal bone — which is the bone that connects to your big toe — begins to dislocate and it eventually buckles.

Knowing the source of their discomfort isn’t likely to motivate women to burn their high heels and replace them with sensible shoes, so it’s your job as nail techs to make their journey as painless as possible as they navigate life on tiptoes. Take the time to discuss your client’s options so she can find relief or a remedy for her discomfort.

Client: Oh my gosh, my feet are killing me today! What can I do about my bunions?

You: I’m so sorry you’re hurting! Unfortunately, I can’t tell you what to do to treat your bunions. I’d recommend you schedule an appointment with your doctor to discuss your options. You might need arch supports or even surgery. But I can give you a few ways to relieve the pain.

Client: Good. Let’s hear them.

You: Well, first is the obvious: Stop wearing shoes that squeeze your feet! Find shoes that allow your toes room to move. You might want to buy shoes a half-size larger so you can place pads inside the shoes. The pads will cushion your bunion. In fact, your doctor may be able to give you a prescription patch that has a numbing agent on it. I’ve also heard about a procedure where people get cosmetic filler injected under the skin to provide an “internal” cushion. Talk to your doctor about that option too.

You can also soak your feet in a foot bath. If you want soothing relief, use warm water. If you want to reduce swelling, use cold water. Sometimes rubbing Lanacane on the bunion helps, as does taking Advil or Aleve. Mainly, though, you just need to keep pressure off your feet so that the area doesn’t become inflamed and painful.

Client: I know you’re right. I guess I need to start taking care of them or they’ll just keep getting worse.

You: True. In the meantime, I’ll give you a gentle foot massage during your pedicure and hopefully that will ease some of your pain.

Treatment Options

If bunions are caught early enough, two options may offer a less invasive solution to surgery that involves cutting the bone: Chiropractic adjustment can re-align the bone properly or a surgeon can cut the ligaments at the joint to realign the bone. Both options require the patient to opt for footwear that evenly distributes body weight and supports the arch to avoid a recurrence of the bunion.

A mature bunion is painful, presenting as a large deformity as the bone bulges at the side of the foot and the big toe moves to tuck under the second toe. In this advanced stage, a doctor will likely suggest surgery to realign and shave the bone. Wires or screws may be necessary to keep bones aligned. Recovery can take six weeks to three months. It’s a difficult healing process, but still worth it to many people to relieve the often unrelenting pain.


According to the American Orthapaedic Foot & Ankle Society (AOFAS):

> More than half of American women have a bunion.

> Nine out of 10 women wear shoes that are too small.


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