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.