Knowing how bunions develop is helpful in selecting the appropriate bunion treatment. In general, most bunion deformities are a result of foot structure and function which are genetic. As the heel strikes the ground when walking, the joints of the foot unlock and absorb impact. Referred to as pronation, the arch collapses causing the feet to flatten. This flattening causes excessive tension of the tendon in the upper mid-foot that enables the big toe to bend upward. The tendon contracts which then forces the big toe to be pulled laterally toward the second toe. It can take many years for a bunion to develop, and especially to the point of pain. One can have a bunion but not yet experience any bunion pain. Conversely, one can suffer from bunion pain without having a severe deformity.
Bunions occur with greater regularity in women than men, and they may sometimes run in families. You may also have an increased likelihood of bunions if you are born with certain bone abnormalities in your feet. Factors that may increase your chances of developing a bunion include long-term use of narrow-toed and/or high-heeled footwear. Arthritis. Toe trauma. Laxity of your connective tissues (ligament laxity). Limb length inequalities. Genetics. Certain foot problems (e.g. flatfoot, over-pronation, etc.).
The symptoms of a bunion include the following development of a firm bump on the outside edge of the foot, at the base of the big toe, redness, swelling, or pain at or near the MTP joint, corns or other irritations caused by the overlap of the first and second toes, restricted or painful motion of the big toe.
Your family doctor or chiropodist /podiatrist can identify a bunion simply by examining your foot. During the exam, your big toe will be moved up and down to determine if your range of motion is limited. You will be examined for signs of redness or swelling and be questioned about your history of pain. A foot x-ray can show an abnormal angle between the big toe and the foot. In some cases, arthritis may also be seen. A X-ray of your foot may help identify the cause of the bunion and rate its severity.
Non Surgical Treatment
Nonsurgical treatments such as rest and wearing loose (wider) shoes or sandals can often relieve the irritating pain of bunions. Walking shoes may have some advantages, for example, over high-heeled styles that pressure the sides of the foot. Anti-inflammatory medications, such as acetylsalicylic acid (aspirin, Ecotrin), ibuprofen (Advil, Children's Advil/Motrin, Medipren, Motrin, Nuprin, PediaCare Fever) and naproxen (Anaprox, Naprelan, Naprosyn, Aleve), can help to ease inflammation as well as pain. Local cold-pack application is sometimes helpful as well. To reduce tension on the inner part of the joint of a bunion, stretching exercises are sometimes prescribed. Depending on the structure of the foot and severity of the bunion, custom insole orthotics can slow the progression of the bunion and address underlying biomechanical causes. Inflammation of the joint at the base of the big toe can often be relieved by a local injection of cortisone. Any signs of skin breakdown or infection can require antibiotics. When the measures above are effective in relieving symptoms, patients should avoid irritating the bunion again by optimizing footwear and foot care.
There are a number of different surgical procedures used to treat bunions. The type of surgery recommended for you will depend on the severity of the deformity. Your surgeon may use pins, wires or screws to hold the bones in place while they heal. Depending on the type of surgery you have, these may be left in your foot or removed later on. Some of the surgical procedures for bunions are described below. Osteotomy is the most commonly used and proven type of bunion surgery. Although there are many different types of osteotomy, they generally involve cutting and removing part of the bone in your toe. During the procedure, your surgeon will remove the bony lump and realign the bones inside your big toe. They'll also move your toe joint back in line, which may involve removing other pieces of bone, possibly from the neighbouring toes. A procedure called distal soft tissue realignment may be combined with an osteotomy. This involves altering the tissue in your foot to help correct the deformity and improve the stability and appearance of the foot.
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.