A bunion, or hallux valgus, is a bump on the inner foot typically around the base of the big toe. If you’ve never experienced a bunion you might think it is a growth or an enlarged bone, but you’d be wrong. A bunion is a bone that has begun to drift out of position causing a deformity in the foot, not to mention a lot of pain and discomfort.
Bunions develop slowly as pressure on the joint causes the toe to lean towards the second toe and over time this changes the structure of the bone resulting in a bump. The deformity will gradually increase and may make wearing shoes or walking difficult due to pain.
Anyone can get a bunion, though they are more common in women as women are more likely to wear tight, narrow shoes that squeeze their toes together making them prone to developing bunions.
What is a bunion?
The big toe is made up of two joints and a bunion forms as the bones move out of alignment as the enlarged joint becomes inflamed. The bump forms on the joint at the base of your big toe as your bones move out of place.
A severe bunion can greatly alter the appearance of the foot. In advanced cases, the toe can angle itself under or over the second toe and possibly cause other toes to fall out of alignment as well.
What causes a bunion to develop?
Several factors might increase your chance of developing a bunion.
- Wearing poor fitting shoes–in particular shoes with narrow, tight, or pointed toe boxes that squeeze your toes into an unnatural position.
- Those who suffer from conditions such as arthritis or other inflammatory conditions can make you more prone to bunions due to joint inflammation.
- Family history can also be a factor if bunions run in your family.
A bump on the outside of your toe may not bother you too much, but other symptoms might! Some common symptoms associated with bunions are:
- Swelling, redness, and soreness around your big toe
- Corns and callus developing where toes rub together
- Stiffness and restricted movement of the joint
- Difficulty moving or pain during activities/applied pressure on the foot
When to talk to your doctor
Although bunions require no medical treatment, if you have ongoing pain, difficulty wearing footwear, and decreased movement due to pain, you should talk to your doctor and consider being seen by a podiatrist.
Your doctor will ask about your medical history, general health, and symptoms before conducting a careful examination of your foot.
X-rays will also be done to check the alignment of toes and determine how severe the bunion is and the best treatment.
In most cases, bunions are treated without surgery, and though this will not remove the bunion, it can help keep it from worsening as well as reduce pain and inflammation.
Some methods of non-surgical treatment your doctor may recommend:
Changes in footwear- Pain can be managed by switching to shoes that fit properly and do not compress the toes together. Shoes can be modified with stretchers to loosen areas that may put pressure on your shoes.
Tips for choosing the right shoe:
- Do not select shoes by size, instead, you should judge on how it fits your feet
- Select shoes that conform best to the shape of feet
- Have your feet measured regularly and fit the larger foot
- Do not purchase shoes that are tight expecting them to stretch to fit
- Walk in the shoes to make sure they fit and feel right
Padding- Protective bunion shield pads can help cushion the painful area of a bunion. Be sure to test the pads for a short period first as the size of the pad may increase pressure on the bump causing more pain.
Orthotics- Your doctor may recommend orthotics, shoe inserts, splints, or other orthotic treatment to help manage the pain.
Icing- Applying ice several times a day for at least 20 minutes can reduce swelling, but refrain from applying directly to the skin. Instead, wrap the ice pack in a kitchen towel
Your doctor may recommend surgery if you still experience pain or difficulty walking despite changes with non-surgical treatment after a long period of time.
Bunion surgery realigns bones, ligaments, tendons, and nerves to realign your toes to correct the problem, so it should not be taken lightly. Though the procedure may be done on the same day without a hospital stay, the road to recovery is long.
Surgery comes in different forms depending on the condition of the patient and the severity of the bunion. In most bunion surgeries bone cutting is necessary as is the use of metal pins, screws, and plates to hold the bones in the right position.
With all surgeries there are risks and bunion surgery is no exception. The risks include scars, incomplete correction, nerve damage, restricted movement at the joint, failure to relieve pain, the return of a bunion, development of arthritis, painful permanent hardware, and difficulty healing.
Recovery time can take anywhere from 8 to 12 weeks as bones take a while to fully heal. During this time the patient is often not allowed to put weight on the foot. Following your doctor’s instructions on whether and when you can put weight on your foot or begin to use it is crucial. Putting weight on or disturbing the foot too early without proper support will cause the bones to shift and correction will be lost.
Crutches, walkers, and scooters are commonly needed during recovery as are protective boots and footwear. Physical therapy may be required as well.
It is important to be realistic when it comes to the expectations of bunion treatment. Even with surgery, you may not be allowed to continue to wear smaller shoes or narrow ones that you may have worn before. There is also the possibility that the bunion may return. However, a bunion shouldn’t damper your mood during any season as most can be treated without surgery. Don’t let your bunion hinder you anymore. Contact us at Progressive Footcare today!