According to the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA):
A bunion is an enlargement of the joint at the base of the big toe-the metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint – that forms when the bone or tissue at the big toe joint moves out of place. This forces the toe to bend toward the others, causing an often painful lump of bone on the foot.
Since this joint carries a lot of the body´s weight while walking, bunions can cause extreme pain if left untreated. The MTP joint itself may become stiff and sore, making even the wearing of shoes difficult or impossible. Bunions – from the Latin “bunio,” meaning enlargement – can also occur on the outside of the foot along the little toe, where it is called a “bunionette” or “tailor´s bunion.”
What Causes A Bunion?
Bunions are the byproduct of unnatural forces and motion being applied to the joints and tendons of your foot over a prolonged period of time. They can also be caused by traumas to the foot as well as congenital deformities. Occupations or athletic activities that place abnormal stress on your feet can also lead to the formation of bunions.
Bunions have a tendency to run in families, but it’s not the bunion itself that is hereditary. It’s the the foot type which *causes* the bunion that is hereditary. Also, wearing shoes such as high heels that do not distribute your body weight evenly can lead to bunions, which explains why so many women suffer from bunions.
Here is a list of the most common methods for treating bunions:
- Conservative Treatment. Apply a commercial, non-medicated bunion pad around the bony prominence. Wear shoes with a wide and deep toe box. If your bunion becomes inflamed and painful, apply ice packs several times a day to reduce swelling. Avoid high-heeled shoes over two inches tall. See your podiatric physician if pain persists.
- Orthotics. Shoe inserts may be useful in controlling foot function and may reduce symptoms and prevent worsening of the deformity.
- Padding & Taping. Often the first step in a treatment plan, padding the bunion minimizes pain and allows the patient to continue a normal, active life. Taping helps keep the foot in a normal position, thus reducing stress and pain.
- Medication. Anti-inflammatory drugs and cortisone injections are often prescribed to ease the acute pain and inflammations caused by joint deformities.
- Physical Therapy. Often used to provide relief of the inflammation and from bunion pain. Ultrasound therapy is a popular technique for treating bunions and their associated soft tissue involvement.
- Surgery. Several surgical procedures are available to the podiatric physician The surgery will remove the bony enlargement, restore the normal alignment of the toe joint, and relieve pain.A simple bunionectomy, in which only the bony prominence is removed, may be used for the less severe deformity. Severe bunions may require a more involved procedure, which includes cutting the bone and realigning the joint.
Recuperation takes time, and swelling and some discomfort are common for several weeks following surgery. Pain, however, is easily managed with medications prescribed by your podiatric physician.
The main goal of most early treatment options is to alleviate pressure on the bunion and stop the advancement of the joint deformity.
Identifying a bunion early in its development is essential in eliminating the need for surgery.
A visit to an experienced Podiatrist at the first indication of pain or discomfort is important. Left untreated, bunions tend to get larger and more painful, and podiatric surgery may then become necessary to relieve pressure and repair the toe joint.
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