A bunion is a growth of skin at the joint of the big toe, often a result of enlarged tissue or misaligned bone. In some cases, the bunion may be so extreme that it pushes the big toe inward toward the second toe. Skin and tissue surrounding the joint may experience sensitivity to touch, tenderness and pain.
Essentially, bunions are caused by a disruption of the normal interworking of the bones, muscles, ligaments and tendons that comprise your feet, often from wearing shoes that squeeze the toes or place too much weight-bearing stress on them. However, it should be pointed out that other causes or factors in the development of bunions can include flat feet or low arches in the feet, some forms of arthritis, problems with foot mechanics, foot injuries and neuromuscular disorders such as cerebral palsy. Arthritis in the MTP joint, for example, can degrade the cartilage that protects it, and other problems may cause ligaments to become loose. Pronation, walking in a way that your foot rolls inwards, increases your risk for developing bunions.
The most obvious symptoms of a bunion are. Pain in the area of the MTP joint, the joint where your big toe connects to your foot. Bending of the big toe in towards the other toes. An enlarged bump of bone or tissue at the MTP joint. Each symptom can range in degree from small to severe. Sometimes the pain can be sufficient to make it difficult to walk in normal shoes. Other symptoms may include. Swelling and inflammation of the skin around the MTP joint. Thickening of the skin in the area of the joint. Restricted motion in your big toe. Pressure from the inward bending of your big toe can affect your other toes, leading to corns on your smaller toes. Ingrown toenails on the smaller toes. Development of hammertoes in the other toes. Calluses on the bottom of your foot. If you have any of these symptoms, especially pain, displacement of your big toe or development of a bulge, you should consider consulting your physician. Even if you're not significantly bothered by some of these symptoms, bunions tend to continue getting bigger and more serious over time and should be taken care of before they do so.
Your doctor can identify a bunion by examining your foot. Watching your big toe as you move it up and down will help your doctor determine if your range of motion is limited. Your doctor will also look for redness or swelling. After the physical exam, an X-ray of your foot can help your doctor identify the cause of the bunion and rate its severity.
Non Surgical Treatment
Patients who suffer from bunions are usually referred to a surgeon. Unfortunately, surgery often makes the problem worse. Surgeons will use x-ray technology as a diagnostic tool, which does not always properly diagnose the pain source. Another problem with this approach is that it does not do anything to strengthen the weakened ligament in the foot and, thus, does not alleviate the chronic pain that people with this condition experience. Another standard practice of modern medicine is to use steroids or to prescribe anti-inflammatory medications. However, in the long run, these treatments do more damage than good. Cortisone shots and anti-inflammatory drugs have been shown to produce short-term pain benefit, but both result in long-term loss of function and even more chronic pain by actually inhibiting the healing process of soft tissues and accelerating cartilage degeneration. Plus, long-term use of these drugs can lead to other sources of chronic pain, allergies and leaky gut syndrome.
If the conservative options fail, your doctor will determine the best surgical procedure based on the severity of your condition. The most common surgical procedure is a bunionectomy, which includes removing swollen tissue from around your big toe joint. Removing part of the bone to straighten your big toe. Realigning the metatarsal bone to reduce angular deformity. Joining the bones in a corrected position to permanently correct the deformity. Most people can get up and walk around the day after bunion surgery, but full recovery can occasionally take up to eight weeks or more. Doctors stress the importance of wearing proper shoes, especially after treatment, to prevent recurrence. If you are at higher risk or prone to bunions, you may not be able to avoid recurrence.
The simplest way to reduce your chance of developing foot bunion or bunionette problems is to wear good-fitting shoes. Avoid high heels as they push your feet forwards to the front of the shoe where they get squashed. Also avoid narrow fitting shoes, especially those that are pointed at the front with a narrow toe box as again, these place pressure through the toes pushing them inwards. Shoes should be comfortable and leave enough room for you to wiggle your toes. Remember, bunions rarely affect non-shoe wearing people. Exercising your feet can also help. By strengthening the foot muscles you can improve your foot position which can help reduce foot bunion problems. Simple exercises like picking up small objects with your toes can help.