Bunions and big toe pain-what to do about it

foot experiencing pain and inflammation in the first metatarsophalangeal joint
Feet of a woman with painful Hallux Valgus

According to University of Michigan Health, bunions (also known as hallux valgus) and big toe pain is misalignment of the first metatarsal in relation to the big toe.

misalignment of the first MTP joint of the foot

Big toe pain according to TCM

According to TCM, big toe pain is caused by a pattern of qi and blood stagnation. This means that the energy is stuck in the big toe, preventing oxygen rich blood from flowing smoothly through the joint. The treatment principle would be to move qi and blood in the joint in addition to treating underlying imbalances.

What TCM therapies can be used to treat bunions?

Adjunct TCM therapies for the treatment of bunion big toe pain include electrical stimulation, tuina massage, topical liniments and foot soaks. Bunions can be helped enormously by massage and foot soaks and the great thing about these therapies is that anyone can perform them at home. You should feel empowered to read about and try the techniques mentioned below. If you would like to purchase any of the products or herbs listed, feel free to order them here.

Electrical stimulation can help to increase local blood flow to the foot and areas of pain. Acupuncturists use machines like the E-stim II that are connected to needles during treatment. Patients can TENS units like the Medvice TENS unit and apply the patches to the areas of the foot and ankle. Check out this Youtube video on proper placement of TENS unit for foot pain from physical therapists Bob & Brad.

I always incorporate topical liniments such as Zheng gu shui or Dr. Bob’s Medicated Oil in my health acupuncture appointments. They are great at releasing muscle tension and easing pain. And they smell wonderful, too!

zhenggushui topical liniment for tendon and bone pain

Warming Foot Soak Recipe

This recipe can be found in Tom Bisio’s book, A Tooth from the Tiger’s Mouth, and is meant for EXTERNAL USE ONLY. It is not meant for initial inflammatory phase of injury. This recipe treats injuries that are sensitive to cold or hurts more in cold weather.

Apply this soak twice a day for 7-10 days. A batch can last up to 10 days. This foot soak recipe is very warming, relaxes muscles and tendons that are in spasm and increases local circulation.

  • 9 grams Chuan wu (Sichuan Aconite)
  • 9 grams Cao wu (Wild aconite)
  • 9 grams Chuan jiao (Sichuan pepper)
  • 9 grams Tou gu cao
  • 9 grams Ai ye (Mugwort leaf)
  • 9 grams Cang zhu
  • 9 grams Du huo
  • 9 grams Gui zhi (Cinnamon twig)
  • 9 grams Fang feng
  • 9 grams Hong hua (Safflower)
  • 9 gramsShen jin cao (Clubmoss)
  • 9 grams Liu ji nu (Artemsia)

Western therapies to treat bunions

Western therapies include surgical and non-surgical treatment. Non-surgical treatment includes:

  • Physical therapy exercises (writing out the ABCs with the toes, Flexing/extending the toes). Check out the “Stretches for foot pain” article from FootWearNews.com
  • Shoe modifications – wearing comfortable shoes with a wider and taller toe box
  • A shoe stretcher or ball and ring stretcher – allows modification to current shoes to prevent irritation
  • A toe spacer and/or bunion sleeve– can be used to treat symptoms; however, they will not affect the size of the bunion or prevent progression of the disability

foot spacer corrector

Small changes make a big difference

Lifestyle changes can be implemented at home to address big toe pain. I have worked with a number of clients with toe pain and we have come up with a couple of additional solutions:

  • While driving, ensure that the ball of the foot, rather than the toes, are making contact with the gas pedal. Relax the muscles and tendons of the toes by resting the heel on the car floor and bringing the driver seat closer to the wheel.
  • Wear thick soled shoes, such as New Balance or Danskos, especially when experiencing pain.

Book an acupuncture appointment to treat foot and bunion pain

We specialize in treating pain at Healing Acupuncture Clinic. We have 3 locations in the Denver Metro area for your convenience- Parker, Colorado, North Denver, Colorado and South Denver, Colorado. Book your next service with Stephanie and harness your body’s ability to heal.

Published by Healing Acupuncture Co.

Acupuncture clinic that specializes in balancing mental-emotional health, treating low back pain and cosmetic rejuvenation.

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