Do you have a bony bump on the outside of the big toe? Does it interfere with your comfort when going out in the world, making you think twice about your footwear or activities? Or do you fear you may be developing such a bump and that it could grow worse over time?
Whatever stage of a bunion you may have, there is something you can do to help yourself live more comfortably and even prevent the bunion from becoming worse.
What Is a Bunion?
A bunion is an effect of the big toe shifting inward toward its neighboring toes. This gradual motion over time forces the joint at the base of the big toe to stick out to the side and even enlarge.
In addition to the obvious bump, other symptoms of a bunion can include:
- Swelling around the joint.
- Soreness and redness around the joint.
- Corns or calluses—usually where the toes overlap and rub together, or sometimes where the bunion rubs against the inside of a shoe.
- Pain—either consistent or “off and on.”
- Restricted toe movement, with the potential of arthritis as a factor.
It is also possible to develop a bunion on the other side of the foot, at the joint of the fifth toe. This condition is often referred to as a “bunionette” or “tailor’s bunion” and has many similarities to its larger cousin.
What Causes a Bunion?
Many people will cite poor shoe choices as the cause of a bunion. However, when we’re specifically referring to causes, this may not be correct.
Likely causes of bunions include an instability of structure that may be passed down family lines. It is also possible that injuries to the foot can cause instability and weakness in the joint, causing it to begin shifting. Arthritis may also be a potential factor in the development of a bunion.
It may not be as likely that high heels or shoes with tight toe boxes are the cause of a bunion, but they are far from exonerated. Such footwear might not cause a bunion, but they can absolutely make existing bunions worse.
How to Treat a Bunion
The primary goals of bunion treatment are somewhat simple:
- Manage or fully relieve any pain or discomfort caused by the bunion as much as possible.
- Limit or prevent the bunion from becoming progressively worse.
Depending on the needs of the patient and the condition of the bunion itself, the course of treatment might follow conservative or surgical methods.
In every case, the sooner a bunion is discovered and treatment starts, the more successfully both above goals tend to be completed. Many bunions can begin to develop during childhood or teen years, well before tight shoes are even introduced. Detecting the problem this early can be extremely helpful in stopping a bunion’s progression and providing easy, lasting relief.
Even bunions in later stages can often benefit from conservative treatments, however. These can include:
- Changes in footwear.
- Icing regimen as needed.
- Orthotic inserts to provide balance and realignment away from a stressed bunion area.
- Medications for pain and inflammation.
- Padding, taping, or splinting.
- Exercises and stretches to increase mobility and strengthen the area around the joint.
If conservative methods fail to provide relief, however, or the bunion is so severe that it can’t be prevented from interfering with daily life, then surgery may be a consideration.
There are many forms of bunion surgery. Some involve cutting and realigning the bone, while others may lengthen or shorten the soft tissues that hold the joint stable. Whichever procedures may be necessary must be determined on a patient-by-patient basis, and we will be sure to fully discuss all options in every case.
The primary goal of bunion surgery should be relieving pain and discomfort for the patient; it should never primarily be a cosmetic procedure. Full recovery from bunion surgery can take several months, but treatments such as our MLS Laser Therapy can help relieve pain and accelerate healing.
If you have a bunion—or believe a bunion may be developing—don’t wait on letting us examine it and offering the best in preventative and direct care. Call our Medford office at (541) 776-3338.