Massage for Bunion
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- Chronicity 18+ Months
This is a topic I unfortunately have a wealth of experience with. I suffered a basketball injury to my right foot ~10 years ago that left me with a bunion and hallux rigidus (stiff big toe). I've accepted that it will never heal, but I've learned how to manage it so that it has virtually no impact on me running 80 miles/week.
First things first - I would advise against the Nike Frees. I tried the 3.0 three years ago, and while they felt great (light and fast), they were a major factor in me developing a significant foot injury (capsulitis) that left me unable to walk without pain for a year. I thought that I'd never run again. Because of the Free's last, I inadvertently began overusing the outside of my right foot, resulting in my big toe (with the bunion) not doing its share of the work. The first sign, which I promptly ignored, was peroneal tendonitis along the outside of the right calf. I foam-rolled / "sticked" it away and continued running high mileage. Then the ball of my right foot swelled up and running became impossible.
I saw several orthopedic surgeons, a couple physical therapists, bought two expensive pairs of orthotics, and finally relearned how to use my big toe after a trying year.
I've learned that I need to do the following to keep my foot fully functional:
*Always be aware of my gait when walking and running. Proprioception is a funny thing in that you can sometimes lose it without knowing. I now periodically "check in" with my foot to make sure I feel the big toe pushing off and taking on about 2/5 of the load.
*Stick with lightweight stability shoes. I like New Balance because the toe box is typically fairly wide. The 90x series was great for me and I use the 1190 now. The Saucony Mirage is another one I've had success with. You may require a different shoe, but I'd recommend sticking with some support, although you don't have to go over 10 ounces.
*Interestingly, I now depend on the Correct Toes by Dr. Ray McClanahan. I tried a couple of the cheap spacers before, but the fact I can slap some socks and shoes on top of these make them well worth the expensive price. I wear them all day and night except for when I'm running or doing some other moderate physical activity.
*I have to spend about 5 minutes pre-run and preferably 20 either post-run or in the evening massaging my foot and finger-spacing my toes. My left hand spaces and my right thumb goes in between and massages the knots/bubbles out of the ball of my foot near the big toe area. I also wiggle the big toe around a bit while it makes all kinds of arthritic cracking noises to try to keep the range of motion that I have left.
That's about all I can think of at the moment.
- Chronicity 18+ Months
- tape the underneath part of the bunion (the bit where the sole of the foot meets it) - not to change mechanics but to add a second skin. I even used duck tape once when I couldn't get hold of anything else and it got me through a half marathon in good time!
- walk around barefoot whenever possible
- practice squats etc - make sure you're flexible, do whatever you can to ensure correct alignment in all other parts of the body - glute strength etc
- I saw a barefoot running coach and ended up in minimalist shoes after he completely changed my technique. This has helped my running generally, but I am with the people who say that the shoe is only as good as the technique.
- soak feet in white spirit to harden skin (it honestly works but only if you do it regularly - and it really hurts when you have blisters so have a glass of whiskey to hand!)
- stretch your feet
- roll a golf ball around the sole of your foot
- practice picking up marbles with your toes
- always paint your toenails if you're a woman - it makes them look a little bit nicer at least - cheers me up anyway
- keep your ankles as strong as possible
By the way, I've had this problem since I was about 9. Got teased about it in the school changing rooms, was very upsetting at the time. Definitely a hereditary condition as I was never allowed "bad" footwear as a child.
I had a Podiatrist perform reconstructive surgery on my right foot which was causing daily pain/made it impossible to run anything more than 20mins, in Dec 2004, my left foot was to follow later.....its almost 8 years later, and I haven't bothered....and have little intention until I "have to" get it fixed
Honestly unless you are in daily pain, or the bunion is affecting training do not go the way of surgery. Foot massage, big toe stretches, arch exercises, wearing of night splints, toe spacers etc have all worked in some way to keep the left foot from affecting my life/training.....I will only undergo surgery on the left foot to reduce the width of the bunion if it became a problem with shoe fit or daily pain.
After surgery it took almost 6 months before I could start to jog pain free for short periods, and a full year before I was running properly, and entering 5/10ks, 18 months before a marathon... so consider your timeframe before surgery.
I'm glad I did deal with a Sports Podiatrist, it made it easier to discuss expectations etc, thah with a regular non sports surgeon, and he is on board with me not having the other foot "fixed", with the understanding that you just cannot leave it to its own devices, I still see him every 6 months etc, to monitor both feet.....it helps to have a good insurance plan !
At one point several years ago, my toes were so pissed off that I limped everywhere and began overpronating/walking on my heels in order to avoid putting any pressure on the joints. What helped:
- ibuprofen, yes
- changing to wider shoes with low or no heels, except for extremely rare occasions
- wearing toe separators every night, and as often as possible during the day, to stretch the joint at the base of the big toe (a rolled-up trouser sock or similarly sized cloth object is a good substitute when you're in need)
- manual stretching and massage of the toe joints as well as the swelling itself. In my case, the pointy protrusion that I was initially certain was a bone deformity was a swollen bursal sac, which seemed to soften and become more mobile after progressive massage (progressive mostly because the burning inflammation means that at first it hurts like a mother just to touch the area, but this did get much better).
I have no pain or noticeable pointiness now, but the whole episode taught me to be much kinder to my feet, and I take the time to stretch and massage them now.
Go to a good foot doctorfor a diagnosis. You will most likely need to wear some sort of orthotic and be mindful of the shoes you wear. I cut out wearing any sort of heels long ago, and mine are doing O.K. Wearing good shoes (all shoes, not just running), soaking them from time to time in warm water and vinegar (yes, vinegar - stinks, but works), massages and wearing toe separators between your second and big toes certainly help. Recommended shoes are those with large toe boxes. For running, look for those with only mesh where the big toe joint lies in the shoe. Any sort of leather or emblem in that area can really irritate the joint. I wear Asics b/c they always seem to have toe boxes large enough to accomodate my big toe joint.
Most likely mine will require surgery to correct, but I have put that off, as I have been able to run with them fine so far. I've always heard from those who have had bunion surgery that your foot is never the same. One of my doctors told me that the patient will tell the doctor when they need the surgery, and that's when the patient just can't manage the pain.
I've never worn heels or narrow-toed shoes but in my late 50s found myself with a bunion and incipient hammertoe on one foot. Did research that suggested you can avoid surgery if you catch the problem before tendons/ligaments contract irrevocably. I started with an inexpensive pair of toe spacers from the drugstore -- little gel thingies to insert between the big and second toes, which immediately straightened the hammertoe. Moved on to another inexpensive set of toe spacers you insert all your toes through. These have helped stretch the tendons, ligaments, and fascia of my other foot, which tends to cramp during Pilates. I've learned that immobilizing feet inside shoes is not a good thing. There are all kinds of stretches and exercises, even vigorous massage, that will keep your feet strong and flexible, and as you tighten with age you have to work harder at this -- as indeed you must work harder to maintain your body as a whole.
I was told about 14 years ago that I should have surgery. I was given the alternative of orthotics made to my feet. I wore them for a while, still do sometimes, and cut out the heels over 1.5 inches. I massage the bunioon ruthlessly, pulling and pushing the toe around. It is not much bigger than it was then. Knock wood.
- Chronicity 6-18 Months
I had a half inch bunion and in the last year my big toe was starting to turn in and lay over the toe next to it. The bunion was growing, the skin getting red and inflamed, the odd blister after walking a lot, and all my shoes really hurt my foot at that spot. After reading growyouthful’s page on bunions I decided to give oil massages a go. Sometimes I used olive oil, and most often castor oil. Twice a day I put a few drops in my hand and gently rubbed all around the big toe, bunion and down that side of my foot. I did this for at least 10 minutes while I read or watched TV. Before, I I drank a glass of water like you suggested. After a week I was thrilled with the improvement. At this time I also started all the bunion exercises recommended on this site – the stretching and the shaking. It has been a month now and the improvement is amazing. I take time to massage around the base of the big toe, and it is definitely straightening. It does take a lot of time and discipline to do this, but wow the improvement is worth it.
- Chronicity 18+ Months
I have had a moderate bunion for three years on my right foot and the beginnings of one on my left.
I have been vigorously massaging my feet daily for 15 minutes for a few months and it has had an effect of reducing the inflammation in the toe joint. They are still red when I take my shoes off at the end of the day but they have definitely have improved and are not nearly quite as painful as before. I am going to stick with my foot massage and try adding Tagetes oil to my plain massage oil which is recommended for foot problems and there has been a lot of positive things said about this oil in recent years. I wear looser shoes now with a wider toe box - the tight, pointy shoes have all gone on Ebay. Also, one could try Pilates foot exercises to strengthen the feet.
I couldn't go as far to say massage can cure bunions as they are structural anomalies - extra bone has been formed on the toe joint, but it can bring great relief and stop the worsening of the condition.
- Chronicity 6-18 Months
I am 65 years old and have had a bunion on the side of my right foot for some years now. It hurts a little but not too bad because I have learned what kind of shoes to wear (sneakers and sandals). My big toe is bent over the second toe and looks ugly. My doctor said it is impossible to reduce the size of a bunion without surgery but I was determined not to get surgery – too many horror stories I have heard there. Most days I have been doing the massage for a few months and yes it does make a noticeable difference.
- Chronicity 18+ Months
I considered having my bunions removed 30 years ago, but a friend's experience made me think again (it wasn't very successful, nor could the doctor give me much confidence mine would be any better). After considerable bs from a number of sports shoes shops and several big name shoes which only exacerbated the problem, I came across New Balance shoes which were unique at the time in having width fittings - a godsend compared to the almost universal narrow fittings I had suffered. I daresay there are others now (no mention of widths in the blurb of the Omni), but that made the difference. Several marathons, careful stretching and looking after my feet (massages and just looking after them) I am still running. I would be happy to look at other shoes, but the extra width, reducing the blisters, and plenty of arch support to spread the load on the toes works well enough to be running at 60+. Nothing special, but still running.
I tried the massage (without oil), just manually moving the big toe both clockwise and counter clockwise..... and it worked!
I'm now able to wear my old high heel shoes, although I'm careful to take them off as soon as I get home.
The manipulation of the big toes have increased flexibility, reduced pain and decreased my bunions drastically. Sometimes I use coconut oil b/c it smells great, but most of the time I just massage while watching TV w/out oil. I also spread all my toes out a lot, now that I know the importance of stretching!
- Chronicity 18+ Months
I had a bunion on my left big toe for many years. It was so big that the shape of my foot and toes were distorted with the big toe crossing over the other toes. The skin was so stretched and tight it looked as though it was about to split. It was inflamed and red and painful. The bunion started in my twenties when I was playing badminton every day. By the age of 40 my foot had a noticeable distortion and it was painful to walk for long distances. Wearing looser shoes slowed the bunion’s growth and pain, but it looked ugly with obvious distortion, and slowed me down by affecting the way I walked. A friend suggested massaging the toe and bunion area for 10 minutes several times a day. This increases circulation and blood flow in the area and encourage synovial fluid to move around the joint again. It is also helpful to drink plenty of water before the massage get the body well hydrated which aids blood flow and movement of synovial fluid. For the first month I sat comfortably and rubbed my toe, bunion and the whole foot for 10 minutes every morning and evening, and more during the days when I had time. Sometimes my husband also did it for me, and sometimes we gave it as long as 20 minutes. A little castor oil in the palm of the hand keeps it smooth and feels really good. After two weeks there was a noticeable reduction in the size of the bunion, and the skin was looser and hardly inflamed at all. A month later I could literally pinch the skin between my fingers. It felt as if the bunion was being dissolved and washed away. I am in to the second month now and my whole foot is smaller so I can wear a narrower shoe width again after 15 years. The skin around the old bunion area is loose - similar to major weight loss leaving excess hanging skin. The big toe seems a bit straighter, I am optimistic that it will shift back to its youthful position.