Bunions are bony bumps that form on the side of the big toe joint or baby toe joint (these are commonly called ?bunionettes? or ?tailor?s bunions?). Bunions most commonly result from one or more of the following factors: genetics, faulty foot mechanics like over-pronation, and/or long periods of time spent in improperly fitting footwear. Bunions can start with audible clicking (called ?crepitus?) and/or stiffness in the affected joint which indicates that the joint surfaces are rubbing together improperly. This may progress to include inflammation, degeneration of the surfaces of the joint, deformity (including bone growth at the joint line and displacement of the toe) and ultimately, loss of range of motion in the joint.
A true bunion or hallux valgus results from a drifting inwards of the big toe metatarsal from its normal position closer to the second metatarsal. The bunion is the head of this first metatarsal which produces the prominence on the inner side of the now wider foot. Tendons run circumferentially around the metatarsal and toe. They both move and stabilise the toe under normal circumstances. In a bunion or hallux valgus, with the shift/displacement of the first metatarsal these tendons no longer lie in the correct axis and in fact act as a deforming force, contributing to the bunion condition.
The skin over your big toe may be red and tender. Wearing any type of shoe may be painful. This joint flexes with every step you take. Your big toe may angle toward your second toe, or even move all the way under it. The skin on the bottom of your foot may become thicker and painful. Pressure from your big toe may force your second toe out of alignment, sometimes overlapping your third toe. If this condition gets severe, it may be difficult to walk. Your pain may become chronic and you may develop arthritis.
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
You can try over-the-counter remedies like pads to stop them rubbing, or take painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen if they play up. Devices that fit into your shoe, called orthotics, or splints that you wear at night, can slow the progression of bunions. If these don't help and the bunion is causing a painful and substantial deformity that?s seriously limiting your footwear, your GP will probably refer you to see a podiatrist, medical professionals who specialise in feet. They can give further advice about non-invasive treatments and also refer you for an operation, either with a podiatric or orthopaedic (bone) surgeon, ultimately the only thing that can correct the gnarly blighters. You can visit a podiatrist privately, which will cost anything from ?140-?200. But Mike O?Neill, spokesperson for the Society of Podiatrists and Chiropodists, suggest always going via your GP, who will know the best qualified. Such is the complexity of the bone structure of the foot, there are more than 130 different surgical procedures for bunions. One person?s op may be very different from another?s, so be wary of sounding out a friend about theirs.
Surgical options, such as a bunionectomy, can remove the bunion and realign the toe. There are several types of surgeries to fix the bunion. The type of bunion you have along with other factors such as the degree of severity and underlying cause of the bunion will determine which approach would be most beneficial for you.
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.