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In a Bind

Posted by on July 16, 2017

I’ve had bunions for years. My philosophy used to be, if they don’t bother me, then I won’t bother them. They’ve never hurt nor caused me trouble as far as buying shoes is concerned. Then, a few weeks ago in yoga, I noticed it: my left toe encroaching upon the second toe. Such a small thing, but I knew I wouldn’t wait until it become worse to do something about it.

I researched bunion removal surgery. After discovering the operation involved breaking the big to reset it with metal pins, I balked. I’d broken my left ankle in September 2013 and still have 6 pins, which is why that ankle and foot is already bigger than the right foot. Plus, even online research told me that I wouldn’t be a good candidate for bunion removal since they didn’t hurt.  With more research, I found nonsurgical bunion treatments. Essentially, I had to bind my big toes at night and reverse the years as a teenager and 20-something of binding my feet in ill-fitting shoes. Theoretically, the bindings will, over time, retrain those tendons. The big toes should stop slanting over the second toe and the bunion itself, which is a protruding bone, will be reset in its original position. After one week of nightly bunion binding, I cannot truthfully say that I see a difference although I’ve felt one. From the first night I used the apparatus, I felt a slight tingle a few minutes of having bound them. On the fourth or fifth night, I had the bright idea to wrap up the slack on end of the strap to get a better fit. That made it fit better, since according to the instructions, I should feel a little pressure at the base of my big toes, but it shouldn’t be painful. Regardless of the new and improved way I’ve bound my toes, I still wake up before 6 AM to whip those bastards off.  I figure the long hours bound finally add up and those targeted tendons cannot take it anymore.

The only difference I see is that I’m just about due for another pedicure. I have been nursing my left knee and ankle a little more by wearing a cooper sleeve on them. The tightness behind my left knee has diminished; so, I’m looking forward to slowly increasing my exercise regime.

I’m not sure if it’s merely the lighting, but after three weeks of nightly binding, the bunions look a little smaller. One thing’s for sure, I no longer wake up in the middle of the night, having to remove the binds due to pain. I tighten them as much as I ever did; so the difference must be that those targeted tendons must be loosened. Now that I can keep them on longer, I’m hoping to see more progress.

Another thing I noticed this past week is that the tightness and pressure behind my left knee has gone down considerably. That could be due to regular yoga practice four times a week, but who’s to say that realigning my left big toe didn’t help alleviate pressure behind that knee? At this point, I’ll take whatever positive thing I can get. I’ve tempered my urge to exercise more strenuously since the last thing I want to do is aggravate anything. I absolutely love the feeling that my “permanently injured” left foot feels stronger than ever.

The progress continues. I feel the changes more inwardly that what shows outwardly. My left foot has become stronger, which means I can turn up the intensity of my workout. I would have hoped by now to have remedied this condition, but at least I’m still able to tighten the straps and sleep throughout the night without pain.

I’m not sure if this is like yoga training, where stretching a little every day creates internal changes that cannot be seen externally. Yet, I diligently bind my big toes every night in the hopes of preventing the big toe from crossing over the second one and possibly eliminating the bunion. I guess time will tell although after 5 weeks, I thought I would have seen more progress by now.

At this point, I continued to bind my big toes as an act of faith that the pain I experience in the middle of the night in one foot or another would eventually lead to the complete disappearance of the bunions.

So then I did a little more research to get a ball park figure on how long I had to bind my big toes when I came across an alternative method. Turns out that although I may eventually lessen the effect, I’d have bunions for the rest of my life unless I have surgery. There were several different videos about exercises I could do while awake. The pictured above just involved using a hair tie or strong rubber band. I immediately threw my plastic binders into the recycling bin and grabbed a strong hair tie. For a couple of minutes an evening, I could retrain the tendons in my big toes and sleep without any apparatus. Phase two had begun!

After the first time using the hair band, I didn’t really like that method either since the band was so thin, the elastic cut. On the second night I used a hair band, I was adding some things to my weekly grocery list when I thought about asparagus.  Fresh asparagus comes bundled with two thick rubber bands. Perfect for retraining big toes! So, yes, I added that produce to my grocery list just for the rubber bands. Granted, I like asparagus but I also like I finally found a good use for those rubber bands.

That was the most comfortable, inexpensive solution I’d found so far. I stretched those toes while lying on my sofa, reading a book and watching TV. Again, I loved the fact that my feet were unbound while I slept. Plus, when the stretching started to ache, I could relax the stretch for a few minutes and then do another set.

So, after explaining to a friend my homemade remedy to reverse my bunions, she had the brilliant idea to gift me her scrunchies. After all, she’d chopped off her glorious dreadlocks a long time ago and kept her hair somewhere between shaved and a short afro. I’m not sure if it’ll be important in the long run that my toes won’t be separated by as much distance as the previous methods I’ve used, but the scrunchy was definitely the most comfortable.

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