A bunion is a firm, painful bump that forms over a bony bulge at the base of the big toe. In most cases, the big toe joint also is enlarged and has degenerative arthritis. The toe also may be pushed toward the second toe (hallux valgus). Bunions tend to be inherited, but they also are common in the following groups. Women who wear high heels. People who wear shoes that are too narrow or too pointed. People with flatfeet. All of these situations force the big toe to drift toward the little toes, and this can cause bunions to form.
The most common cause of bunions is poor footwear. Poorly fitted shoes, high heeled shoes or shoes with a narrow toe area can all cause bunions or make bunions worse. Bunions can be hereditary and they can be associated with poor foot biomechanics such as overpronation or flat feet. Rheumatoid arthritis or some diseases of the nervous system can also cause bunions.
Patients with bunions will often display pain over the prominent bump on the inside of their forefoot (the medial eminence?). However, they may also have pain under the ball of the foot (under the area near the base of the second toe). Symptoms can vary in severity from none at all to severe discomfort aggravated by standing and walking. There is no direct correlation between the size of the bunion and the patient?s symptoms. Some patients with severe bunion deformities have minimal symptoms, while patients with mild bunion deformities may have significant symptoms. Symptoms are often exacerbated by restrictive shoe wear, particularly shoes with a narrow toe box or an uncomfortable, stiff, restraining upper.
Physical examination typically reveals a prominence on the inside (medial) aspect of the forefoot. This represents the bony prominence associated with the great toe joint ( the medial aspect of the first metatarsal head). The great toe is deviated to the outside (laterally) and often rotated slightly. This produces uncovering of the joint at the base of the big toe (first metatarsophalangeal joint subluxation). In mild and moderate bunions, this joint may be repositioned back to a neutral position (reduced) on physical examination. With increased deformity or arthritic changes in the first MTP joint, this joint cannot be fully reduced. Patients may also have a callus at the base of their second toe under their second metatarsal head in the sole of the forefoot. Bunions are often associated with a long second toe.
Non Surgical Treatment
There is no way to eliminate existing bunions except to have them surgically removed. There are nonsurgical measures you can take to alleviate the pain and prevent your bunions from increasing in severity, and for that reason it's important to see your doctor before they become a serious problem. The more extensive your bunions are, the less effective nonsurgical treatments are. On the other hand, most bunions can be dealt with without surgery through wearing roomier, low-heel shoes, padding and taping your feet, using medications for pain control, going to physical therapy to relieve inflammation and wearing orthotics in your shoes to correct mechanical problems. Bunions that are not causing pain generally aren't appropriate for surgery. Roomier shoes. You should seek out shoes that conform to the shape of your feet as much as possible and provide plenty of room in the toe box, ensuring that your toes are not pinched or squeezed. You should make sure that, while standing, there is a half inch of space for your longest toe at the end of each shoe. Make sure the ball of your foot fits comfortably in the widest part of the shoe. Feet normally swell during the course of the day, so shop for shoes at the end of the day, when your feet are at their largest. Don't be vain about your shoe size, sizes vary by brand, so concentrate on making certain your shoes are comfortable. Remember that your two feet are very likely to be different sizes and fit your shoe size to the larger foot. Low-heel shoes. High heels shift all your body weight onto your toes, increasing the pressure on your toes and their joints tremendously. Instead, wear shoes with low (less than two inches) or flat heels that fit your foot comfortably. Padding and Taping. Padding the bunion can minimize pain and allow you to walk more normally. Specially designed pads for this are available at most drugstores. Taping your foot can reduce stress and pain in it by helping it stay in a more normal position. Medication. Anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin and ibuprofen can help deal with pain and inflammation caused by your bunion. Cortisone injections may be prescribed for the same purpose. If your bunion is a consequence of arthritis in the MTP joint, your physician may prescribe medications for that. Physical Therapy. Ultrasound treatments and whirlpool baths can help reduce pain and inflammation in bunions and related tissues. Orthotics are shoe inserts that can help correct mechanical foot-motion problems to reduce pain and prevent worsening of your bunion. Other measures. Icing and elevating your foot when your bunion is painful may help. Having your shoes stretched at a shoe repair shop may help also.
If non-surgical treatments fail to relieve bunion pain and when the pain of a bunion interferes with daily activities, it?s time to discuss surgical options with a foot and ankle surgeon. Together you can decide if surgery is best for you. A variety of surgical procedures is available to treat bunions. The procedures are designed to remove the ?bump? of bone, correct the changes in the bony structure of the foot, and correct soft tissue changes that may also have occurred. The goal of surgery is the reduction of pain. In selecting the procedure or combination of procedures for your particular case, the foot and ankle surgeon will take into consideration the extent of your deformity based on the x-ray findings, your age, your activity level, and other factors. The length of the recovery period will vary, depending on the procedure or procedures performed.