A bunion, or Hallux Valgus, is a foot deformity characterised by deviation of the bones around the big toe joint of the foot. As a result, there is a large exostosis or bony lump on the inside of the foot and the toe is pointed across towards the smaller toes. It is a common problem, more so in women and has been attributed to tight fitting footwear. This article will cover the basics of bunions, what it is due to, and what treatment is available.
A true bunion or hallux valgus results from a drifting inwards of the big toe metatarsal from its normal position closer to the second metatarsal. The bunion is the head of this first metatarsal which produces the prominence on the inner side of the now wider foot. Tendons run circumferentially around the metatarsal and toe. They both move and stabilise the toe under normal circumstances. In a bunion or hallux valgus, with the shift/displacement of the first metatarsal these tendons no longer lie in the correct axis and in fact act as a deforming force, contributing to the bunion condition.
SymptomsMany people do not experience symptoms in the early stages of bunion formation. Symptoms are often most noticeable when the bunion gets worse and with certain types of footwear. These include shoes that crowd the toes and/or high-heeled shoes. When symptoms do occur, they may include physical discomfort or pain. A burning feeling. Redness and swelling. Possible numbness. Difficulty walking.
Your doctor will be able to diagnose a bunion by asking about your symptoms and examining your feet. You may also have blood tests to rule out any other medical conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis or gout, although this is rare. Your doctor may refer you to a podiatrist or chiropodist (healthcare professionals who specialise in conditions that affect the feet).
Non Surgical Treatment
Treatment options vary depending on the severity of your bunion and the amount of pain it causes you. Early treatment is best to decrease your risk of developing joint deformities. Conservative treatment Nonsurgical treatments that may relieve the pain and pressure of a bunion include changing shoes. Wear roomy, comfortable shoes that provide plenty of space for your toes. Padding and taping. Your Podiatrist can help you tape and pad your foot in a normal position. This can reduce stress on the bunion and alleviate your pain.(Obviously pending on footwear selection). Medications. Acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) can control the pain of a bunion. Your doctor may suggest nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others) or naproxen (Aleve), for relieving pain and reducing inflammation. Cortisone injections also can be helpful. But keep in mind that medications do not alleviate the actual cause of the pain. Physical therapy. The heating effect of ultrasound therapy or whirlpool baths can provide relief from the pain and inflammation of a bunion. Orthotics can help control abnormal movement of your foot, reducing your symptoms and preventing your bunion from getting worse. Over-the-counter arch supports can provide relief for some people, though others may require prescription orthotics.
Bunion surgery can be performed under local or general anaesthetic. The operation usually takes between half an hour to an hour. There are several types of bunionectomies. Some involve removal and realignment of the bones in your foot. Mild bunion problems can sometimes be resolved using soft tissue release or tightening. For some very severe cases bones of the big toe are fused or the bunion is cut out along with some of the bone at the base of the toe. Be sure and discuss which type of operation you will have with your surgeon. With any type of bunionectomy your surgeon will make one or more incisions (cuts) near your big toe. They will use instruments to trim the bones and remove the bunion. Wire, screws or plates may also be used to hold the new joint in place.
Choosing footwear that fits correctly, especially low heeled shoes with plenty of space for the toes, is one of the main ways that bunions can be prevented. Always stand when trying on shoes to ensure they still fit comfortably when the foot expands under your body weight. Try shoes on both feet, and select the size appropriate for your larger foot. Use an extra insole if one shoe is looser than the other. Do not cramp the larger foot. People prone to flat-footedness should consider the use of arch supports, orthotic shoe inserts or special orthotic shoes to prevent or delay the development of bunions.