Because our feet are one of the most highly used parts of our body it is understandable that they are very susceptible to strain and injury. Bunions are one of the most common forefoot problems.
The medical term for a bunion is hallux abducto valgus. A bunion is a prominent bump on the inside of the foot around the big toe joint. It is a very complex foot deformity that generally develops over a long period of time. This condition is much more than a simple bone bump on the side of the foot.
A bunion forms when excessive pressure is created on the long bone (called the first metatarsal) that is just before the start of the big toe. The first metatarsal is forced upward and outward due to the pressure. Eventually, after millions of steps and many years, the big toe is forced toward (and sometimes over or under) the second toe, which causes the first metatarsal to protrude towards the side of the foot. Bursitis can also be a problem, when the bursa (a small fluid-filled sac) adjacent to the joint becomes inflamed and causes additional redness, swelling and pain.
There are various theories about the cause of bunions:
- There is a controversy as to whether or not bunions are caused from wearing shoes that do not fit properly. One opinion states that the formation of bunions has nothing to do with tight shoes; tight shoes aggravate bunion pain, and nothing more. Others argue that improper fitting shoes are the leading cause of bunions and foot pain. Either way, it is best to choose shoes that conform to the shape of your foot and do not fit too tightly.
- Many people who have bunions could possibly develop them due to flat or flattening feet. A bunion could start when the foot is too flexible and flattens out excessively when one stands on their feet. As the foot over-flexes, added pressure is created on the first metatarsal and a bunion eventually forms.
- Bunions could also be caused by the way we walk. If there is an imbalance in the way we walk, it is called overpronation. This imbalance causes the feet to roll in toward the big-toe joint. As such, the joint deforms, and the big toe starts to drift the opposite way toward the other toes.
- Other causes of bunions could include a medical condition, such as arthritis or genetic factors.
What can be done about bunions? Here are a few ideas:
- Prevention is a good idea, and that means giving your feet a break from wearing high heeled shoes that can cause pressure on the toes.
- If a bunion begins to form soaking feet in warm water can provide temporary relief in the early stages.
- To minimize your chances of developing a bunion, do not force your foot into a shoe that doesn’t fit.
- If you already have a bunion, it is important to wear shoes that have enough room and will not cause excessive pressure.
- Anti-inflammatory medications can help to ease inflammation and pain caused by bunions.
- Custom insole orthotics could possible help to slow the progression of the bunion
When a bunion progresses to the point where walking becomes difficult and conservative treatments aren’t effective, you may need surgery. A consultation with your podiatrist will be needed for further diagnosis and to develop a proper treatment plan to deal with your foot pain and bunions.
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