Bunions are bony bumps that form on the side of the big toe joint or baby toe joint (these are commonly called ?bunionettes? or ?tailor?s bunions?). Bunions most commonly result from one or more of the following factors: genetics, faulty foot mechanics like over-pronation, and/or long periods of time spent in improperly fitting footwear. Bunions can start with audible clicking (called ?crepitus?) and/or stiffness in the affected joint which indicates that the joint surfaces are rubbing together improperly. This may progress to include inflammation, degeneration of the surfaces of the joint, deformity (including bone growth at the joint line and displacement of the toe) and ultimately, loss of range of motion in the joint.
Bunions may be hereditary, as they often run in families. This suggests that people may inherit a faulty foot shape. In addition, footwear that does not fit properly may cause bunions. Bunions are made worse by tight, poorly-fitting, or too-small shoes. Bunions may also happen due to inflammatory conditions such as arthritis. Anyone can get bunions, but they are more common in women. People with flat feet are also more likely to get bunions due to the changes in the foot caused by bunions. There is also a condition called adolescent bunion, which tends to occur in 10-to-15-year old girls.
Bunions may cause no pain at first. But as the big toe begins to turn in towards the other toes, people with bunions usually experience redness, pain, swelling, and tenderness in the area around the joint. Pressure inside the joint or from footwear pressing against the bunion may also cause discomfort. As the affected toe curves closer to the other toes on the foot, these toes can become painful as well. Complications of bunions include corns, calluses, hammer toe, and ingrown toenails. Other complications include irritation of the nerves surrounding the bunion area. Excess rubbing of the bunion against the footwear may lead to changes in the skin, resulting in corns or calluses. Hammer toe is a deformity of the toe immediately next to the big toe. A hammer toe is slightly raised and points upwards from the base and downwards at the end of the toe. Ingrown toenails can result from increased pressure from the big toe on the other toes. There may also be a decrease in the amount a person can move the joint affected by the bunion. Irritation of the nerves will feel like burning or decreased sensation.
Bunions are readily apparent, you can see the prominence at the base of the big toe or side of the foot. However, to fully evaluate your condition, the Podiatrist may arrange for x-rays to be taken to determine the degree of the deformity and assess the changes that have occurred. Because bunions are progressive, they don't go away, and will usually get worse over time. But not all cases are alike, some bunions progress more rapidly than others. There is no clear-cut way to predict how fast a bunion will get worse. The severity of the bunion and the symptoms you have will help determine what treatment is recommended for you.
Non Surgical Treatment
The most common cause of a bunion is over pronation, this is when your foot rotates in too much as you walk. You really need to treat the underlying cause of the bunion as soon as possible to prevent any further damage. Wear wide fitting shoes, preferably with a leather upper which will allow a stretch. Avoid high heeled shoes. Bunion exercises will help to keep the joint flexible. Bunion surgery may be required in some patients, however this should only be considered when all non-surgical treatment options have been used. Bunion surgery has improved dramatically over the last 20 years but it still cannot guarantee a total recovery and often post operative complications such as calluses and corns can occur depending on the procedure used. If your bunion becomes painful, red and swollen, try using ice on the joint and elevate the foot on a stool. Bunion Night Splints can reduce the size of the bunion. This will straighten the bunion while you sleep. A Bunion Shield can reduce the pain over the bunion. Performing stretches on your toes and feet while you go about your daily routine. This increases circulation, red blood cell activity, and bone realignment. The easiest way to do this is by using a soft, flexible, medical grade gel Toe stretcher which is gentle between the toes and helps to straighten your toes.
When the pain of a bunion interferes with daily activities, and conservative treatment has been completed it's time to discuss surgical options. Foot Mechanics has excellent relationships with many Orthopaedic Surgeons, who are the specialists who perform bunion surgery. Because bunions are caused by faulty foot mechanics surgery can improve the look of your feet by removing the ?bump? but if the underlying mechanics are not addressed then the bunion is likely to return. For this reason orthotics are used post-surgery to prevent the return of bunions.