A bunion (from the Latin ‘bunion’, meaning enlargement) is a protuberance of bone around the big toe joint. The enlargement can also occur at the outside of the foot, at the base of the little toe. This is called a tailor’s bunion or bunionette. As a bunion deformity progresses with time, an enlargement increases in size behind the big toe, making shoe wear difficult and painful. Consequently, the big toe will shift position and move over or under the toes next to the big toe. Bunions can occur at any age between childhood and the golden years. The occurrence of bunions are far more prominent in women than men. Ill fitting narrow shoes and shoes with heels tend to aggravate bunions and cause them to occur at a higher incidence.
Bunions are most often caused by faulty foot mechanics. It is not the bunion itself that is inherited, but certain foot types that make a person prone to developing a bunion. Although wearing shoes that crowd the toes won’t actually cause bunions in the first place, it sometimes makes the deformity progressively worse. That means you may experience symptoms sooner.
Audible clicking (called ?crepitus?) and/or stiffness in the affected joint which indicates that the joint surfaces are rubbing together improperly. 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. Pain at the side and top of the joint that worsens with walking and physical activity.
Although bunions are usually obvious from the pain and unusual shape of the toe, further investigation is often advisable. Your doctor will usually send you for X-rays to determine the extent of the deformity. Blood tests may be advised to see if some type of arthritis could be causing the pain. Based on this evaluation, your doctor can determine whether you need orthopaedic shoes, medication, surgery or other treatment.
Non Surgical Treatment
Treatment options vary with the type and severity of each bunion, although identifying the deformity early in its development is important in avoiding surgery. The primary goal of most early treatment options is to relieve pressure on the bunion and halt the progression of the joint deformity. A podiatrist may recommend these treatments. Padding and Taping, Often the first step in a treatment plan, padding the bunion minimizes pain and allows the patient to continue a normal, active life. Taping helps keep the foot in a normal position, thus reducing stress and pain. Medication, Anti-inflammatory drugs and cortisone injections are often prescribed to ease the acute pain and inflammation caused by joint deformities. Physical Therapy, Often used to provide relief of the inflammation and bunion pain. Ultrasound therapy is a popular technique for treating bunions and their associated soft tissue involvement. Orthotics, Shoe inserts may be useful in controlling foot function and may reduce symptoms and prevent worsening of the deformity.
Surgery for bunions usually isn’t done unless you have already tried other treatment and it did not relieve your pain. Other treatment includes wearing shoes with lots of room for your toes and using pads and supports in your shoe for protection and comfort. Surgery may be right for you if your toe is too painful, if your bunion is very big, or if you can’t easily do your daily activities. It’s not clear how well bunion surgery works or which kind of surgery is best. How well the surgery works depends on how bad your bunion is, the type of surgery you have, and your surgeon’s experience. Your expectations will play a big role in how you feel about the results of surgery. If you want surgery mainly to improve the way your foot looks, you may be disappointed.
If you are genetically at risk, not a lot. But shoes that are too narrow, too tight (even ballet flats) or have very high heels that force your toes down into the pointed end are asking for trouble. Aim for a 1cm gap between your toes and the end of your shoes. This doesn?t mean wearing frumpy flatties, the Society of Podiatrists and Chiropodists recommends sticking to 4cm heels for everyday wear, and wearing different types of shoe to vary the position of your foot. Gladiator styles can help because the straps stop your foot pushing down into the point of the shoe, ditto Mary Janes (sorry but for beautiful feet they need to have a strap), and flat, wide-fitting brogues are a no-brainer. Alternatively, in summer you can wear flip-flops to keep the space between your big and second toe as wide as possible. If you have children it?s vital to make sure that their feet are measured for properly fitting shoes to nip any potential problems in the bud. Keeping your feet and lower legs supple and strong is important too, that?s how A-list celebs get away with wearing killer heels, they all work-out like crazy. Exercises like trying to widen the space between your big toe and the second one with your foot flat on the floor, a few times a day can help, as can calf stretches. If you are devoted to any exercise that involves high impact for your feet, it might be worth checking that your gait and shoes are correct with a specialist shop such as Runners Need, as poor styles can cause irreparable bunion-related problems that will consign your trainers to the back of the cupboard for ever.
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