A foot bunion is a common cause of foot pain caused by deformity of one of the toe bones. They most commonly affect the big toe, known as hallux abducto valgus, but can also affect the little toe, known as a bunionette. The classic presentation is a large bump on the outer side of the big toe that is red, swollen and painful caused by the toe deviating across towards the second toe. Left untreated, the condition usually gets gradually worse, so it is important to get treatment early on else you may end up needing bunion surgery.
The main cause of bunions is a mechanical imbalance in the feet which is usually inherited. The mechanical imbalance is known as overpronation, where the feet roll in towards the arch and big toe. This added weight and stress transfer towards the big toe, causes instability in the structures of this area and a bunion develops.
SymptomsThe major symptom of bunions is a hard bump on the outside edge of the foot or at the base of the big toe. Redness, pain and swelling surrounding or at the MTP joint can also occur.
Your doctor will ask questions about your past health and carefully examine your toe and joint. Some of the questions might be: When did the bunions start? What activities or shoes make your bunions worse? Do any other joints hurt? The doctor will examine your toe and joint and check their range of motion. This is done while you are sitting and while you are standing so that the doctor can see the toe and joint at rest and while bearing weight. X-rays are often used to check for bone problems or to rule out other causes of pain and swelling. Other tests, such as blood tests or arthrocentesis (removal of fluid from a joint for testing), are sometimes done to check for other problems that can cause joint pain and swelling. These problems might include gout , rheumatoid arthritis , or joint infection.
Non Surgical 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 or splinting. Your doctor can help you tape and pad your foot in a normal position. This can reduce stress on the bunion and alleviate your pain. Medications. Acetaminophen (Tylenol, others), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) or naproxen (Aleve) can help you control the pain of a bunion. Cortisone injections also can be helpful. Shoe inserts. Padded shoe inserts can help distribute pressure evenly when you move your feet, reducing your symptoms and preventing your bunion from getting worse. Over-the-counter arch supports can provide relief for some people, although others may require prescription orthotic devices. Applying ice. Icing your bunion after you’ve been on your feet too long can help relieve soreness and inflammation.
The most significant portion of the bunion surgery is re-aligning the bones. This is performed though bone cuts or a fusion involving the first metatarsal. The severity of the bunion determines where the bone will be cut or fused. Mild or moderate bunions can be corrected close to the big toe joint. Moderate or large bunions often require that the bone work be performed further away from the big toe joint to swing the bone in the proper position.
The best protection against developing bunions is to protect and care for your feet every day. Avoid tight and narrow-fitting shoes. Limit your use of high heels. Wear comfortable shoes with adequate space between your longest toe and the end of the shoe. Getting treatment for very flat or very high-arched feet (if you are experiencing symptoms) will give your feet the proper support and help maintain stability and balance.