A bunion is a bone deformity caused by an enlargement of the big toe joint (first metatarsalphalangeal joint). Bunions form when the big toe (hallux) moves out of place, deviating towards the second toe. The enlargement and its protuberance cause friction and pressure as they rub against footwear. Over time, the deformity worsens; the bony prominence gets bigger and the big toe can overlap the second toe.
Many people with bunions suffer from discomfort and pain from the constant irritation, rubbing, and friction of the bony prominence against inside of shoes. The area of irritation can then become red and tender. Because this joint flexes with every step, the bigger the bunion gets, the more it hurts to walk. Over time the joint may become arthritic with cartilage damage internally. the skin on the bottom of the foot may become thicker, and everyday walking may become difficult—all contributing to chronic pain. As the deformity worsens with time, the other toes and joints of the foot are affected. Some common problems that are associated with bunions are pain under the ball of the foot, especially the second toe area, deformed lesser toes resulting in hammertoes, and painful neuromas in between the toes. These problems are a result of the increased weight bearing on the lesser toes because the big toe joint is no longer functioning properly nor carrying its weight with walking and standing.
Treatment for Bunions
Because they are bone deformities, bunions do not resolve by themselves. The goal for bunion treatment is twofold: first, to relieve the pressure and pain caused by irritations, and second to stop any progressive growth of the enlargement. Commonly used methods for reducing pressure and pain caused by bunions include:
Protective padding, often made from felt material, to eliminate the friction against shoes and help alleviate inflammation and skin problems.
Removal of corns and calluses on the foot.
Changing to carefully fitted footwear designed to accommodate the bunion and not contribute toward its growth.
Orthotic devices—both over-the-counter and custom made—to help stabilize the joint and place the foot in the correct position for walking and standing.
Exercises to maintain joint mobility and prevent stiffness or arthritis.
If there is acute inflammation then a cortisone injection may be necessary.
Depending on the size of the enlargement, misalignment of the toe, and pain experienced, conservative treatments may not be adequate to prevent progressive damage from bunions. In these cases, bunion surgery, known as a bunionectomy, may be advised to remove the bunion and realign the toe.
Have you ever felt a sharp pain at the tip of your great toe, noticed it was a bit swollen, red, and angry looking? And then you'd chalk it up to tigh...