Marcia Polas — Alignment and Movement Educator | Occupational Pilates Teacher | Myofascial and Cranial Sacral Therapy

Resolving Bunions

Fixing Bunions Without Surgery
Bunions. The Mayo Clinic says, “A bunion is a bony bump that forms on the joint at the base of your big toe. A bunion forms when your big toe pushes against your next toe, forcing the joint of your big toe to get bigger and stick out.” I respectfully disagree.

First, let’s talk about the “bony” bump formed on the joint. It is my experience that what feels like bone, is actually a combination of dehydrated fascia and scar tissue built up around the bone, which is rotated in the joint (frequently each joint is rotated). A callous develops on top of that (women suffer this part more than men because of the width of the toe box in most women’s shoes). The “bony” growth can be resolved with fascial release and the toes and bones of the foot can be realigned.

A “bunion” on one foot is not ever the case. A bunion pattern on your right big toe presents differently on your left big toe. If your prominent big toe bunion is on your right foot, your prominent little toe bunion is on your left foot. One foot will have toes “pointing” toward the outside more than the other. There may also be “hammer toes” on each foot – this is a bending (and twisting) of the first or second joint of toes two, three, four, or five. Many people don’t notice their hammer toes until they begin to get blisters or callouses from a shoe rubbing against the top of the joint.

Where Does the Bunion Begin?
I believe it starts at the pelvis and with your stance. Standing wider than fist width apart, not using your core properly, and even locking your knees (which occurs because of underuse of your hamstring and inner thigh muscles). As you stand wider and/or lock your knees, the balance of your weight is uneven on your feet. Shifting your weight to the outside of the foot or standing and moving in turn out vs parallel all begins to have impact on the bones and tissue of your feet. Add shoes and a dysfunctional gait pattern and suddenly, you have bunions. But really you have foot, ankle alignment, knee alignment, and hip issues. And that feeds up your spine to create your lower back pain (more on one side than the other as you have a “standing leg”), and scapular or “between the shoulder blade” pain, neck pain, and even may be causing headaches or adding to sinus issues. Seriously!

Can You Resolve a Bunion Without Surgery?
Each bunion client begins with learning to release the fascia of their gluteus maximus, medias, and minimus. I then begin working on the fascia of the feet, ankles, and lower legs. I won’t lie, it hurts, but most clients are accustomed to bunion pain, and that gets better with the first appointment. The length of time it takes to realign the foot and get rid of the bunions depends on the type of bunion and how severe. In the process, ankle bones, the tissue of the lower leg, and the knee cap all are moved. While all of that is happening, the client’s gait pattern is changed.

While most clients are looking to relieve pain and visually improve what we think of as the bunion, the bigger issues are the bones (alignment) of the heel and the talus (top of foot), and the subtalur joint.

The point is that surgery is not a solution to a bunion. It doesn’t address the alignment of the rest of the foot, let alone leg. And it doesn’t change the pattern. But there are solutions and you can learn to care for your feet, not only becoming pain-free, but also positively impacting your balance over the course of your life. But (and I stress this) surgery is not a good solution!

Below are a few composites of bunion work in process. There are additional illustrations and photos of bunion and other realignment before and after progressions throughout the Instagram feed.