Skip to content
Bunions - Orthopaedics SA


A bunion is a bony bump that forms at the base of the big toe. It is a very common problem which generally occurs when the forefoot spreads and the big toe deviates and pushes against the other toes.

When this happens, the prominent bone at the side of the big toe can rub against a person’s shoe, causing it to redden. A sac of fluid called a bursa may also develop in the tissue overlying the prominent bone. This collection of inflamed soft tissues and underlying prominent bone is what we call a ‘bunion’. If left untreated, it can become very painful and lead to further problems such as deformity of the lesser toes and occasionally arthritis.

Orthopaedics SA provides a wide range of bunion correction options, including traditional open bunion removal surgery and minimally invasive (keyhole) options.

A bunion generally results in:

  • Development of a firm, bony bump on the base of the big toe.
  • Redness, swelling or pain at the base of the big toe.
  • Corns and callouses often developing where the first and second toes rub against each other.

There is no single cause of bunions, however, several factors can be involved in their development. Bunions can be influenced by:

  • Genetics – Bunions tend to run in families but are known to skip generations and are much more common in women.
  • Age – With age, the ligaments of the foot weaken in some people quicker than others and the foot naturally broadens. This can cause the big toe to deviate towards the second toe and bunions to develop.

Bunions are diagnosed through a physical exam by your doctor which will involve looking for the deformity that causes the bony and inflamed protrusion known as a bunion. A weight bearing X-ray may be requested to better understand the severity of the deformity and the bunion and determine the best course of treatment.

There are essentially two types of bunion treatment: conservative management and surgical treatment.

Conservative treatment is beneficial in reducing pain and maintaining some normal function, though it does not fully correct the bunion. Conservative treatment methods may include:

  • Sensible shoes – wearing shoes with a broad toe and flat heels can minimise pain and reduce bunion aggravation.
  • Bunion pads or splints – some people find these helpful for short-term management, as they can reduce the friction of a shoe on the bunion. However, they do not correct the deformity.
  • Anti-inflammatory medication – this may be prescribed by a doctor to reduce pain and inflammation.

Surgical correction provides a more long term solution to bunions. Surgical procedures generally involve not only shaving the prominent bone to remove the bunion but realigning the big toe and narrowing the forefoot. This usually involves cutting and moving the bone(s) and holding the improved position with screws.

There are two main types of bunion surgery:

  • Open technique – this is the traditional option for bunion correction. There are many types of open bunion surgery, and your orthopaedic surgeon will be able to recommend one best suited to your case. For more information on this technique, visit our open bunion surgery treatment page.
  • Minimally invasive (keyhole) bunion surgery – this bunion treatment method is newer, but has become more popular in recent years. It involves operating on the bunion through several very small incisions which causes minimal damage to surrounding tissues. To learn more about minimally invasive bunion surgery, visit our keyhole bunion surgery treatment page.

Orthopaedics SA provides both minimally invasive and traditional open bunion surgery for patients across South Australia.

Explore treatment options

Ankle & Foot Treatments