A slightly goofy word that connotes pain and deformity, bunion is derived from the Greek word for turnip. It’s a bony bump growing out from the side of one’s big toe. Bunions happen at the metatarsophalangeal joint, where the first long bone of the foot meets the first bone of the big toe.

Bunions are common: Approximately 30 percent of people ages 18 to 65 have them, and the prevalence increases with age. More than 70 percent of the elderly have them. They are more common in women than in men.

The primary cause of bunions seems to be genetics. Secondary factors, such as frequently wearing tight-fitting or high-heeled shoes; injuries to the feet, ankles and knees that change your stride; and inflammatory ailments, like rheumatoid arthritis, also contribute to the development of bunions. But we inherit the shape and structure of our feet from our biological parents. If your mom or dad have bunions, especially bunions bad enough to require surgery, you may also eventually develop them.

Bunions typically develop slowly, and not all of them require surgery. Your best bet in preventing a bunion from becoming so painful that surgery is necessary is to pay attention to your feet. Wear comfortable shoes that have good arch support, low or no heels, and a wide toe box that gives your toes lots of wiggle room. If you notice your feet changing or your shoes fitting differently, see a podiatrist or an orthopedic doctor who specializes in feet. These specialists can help you manage bunions with foot pads, inserts, or individualized orthotics. Early treatment won’t take away a bunion, but it can prevent the bunion from worsening and causing you pain.

If, despite your best efforts, a bunion causes pain and limits your activity, it’s time to consider surgery. Be prepared for a short surgery and a long recovery time. Full recovery from bunion surgery, reaching the point where you are glad you did it, can take up to a year.

When my patients need bunion surgery, I recommend the following to ensure the best outcome and swiftest recovery:

  • Take a single dose (2 pellets under the tongue 15 minutes away from food) of homeopathic Arnica 30 c or 200 c in the morning of surgery and again in the evening after surgery.
  • To reduce inflammation and speed bone healing, take the herbal medicines boswellia (300 milligrams (mg]), turmeric (100 mg), and ashwagandha (100 mg) four times per day for six weeks after surgery. Be sure to tell your surgeon in advance that you plan to take these herbs to help with your recovery.
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol during the first three weeks after surgery, as both can increase inflammation and pain.
  • Follow all surgical instructions and postsurgery physical therapy recommendations thoroughly. Don’t rush the process or skimp on your prescribed exercises. Treat yourself well and you’ll be back on your feet in a few months’ time.

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