Do you have a bony bump on the outside of the big toe? Does it interfere with your comfort when going out, making you think twice about your footwear or activity choices? Do you fear you may develop such a bump, and it could worsen over time?

Whatever stage of a bunion you may have, there are ways to 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. Over time, this gradual motion forces the joint at the base of the big toe to stick out to the side and even grow more prominent. In addition to the obvious bump, other signs 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 where the bunion rubs against the inside of a shoe
  • Pain—either consistent or intermittent
  • Restricted toe movement

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, this may not be correct when we're explicitly referring to causes. Likely causes of bunions include structure instability 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.

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 can 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 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 better. Many bunions can develop during childhood or teen years, well before tight shoes are even introduced. Detecting the problem 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
  • 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 joint

Do I Need Bunion Surgery?

If conservative methods fail to provide relief, or the bunion is so severe that it can't be kept from interfering with daily life, 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 discuss all options in every case thoroughly.

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 like our MLS Laser Therapy can help relieve pain and accelerate healing.

We Can Help You Find the Right Course of Treatment

If you have a bunion—or believe a bunion may be developing—don't wait to let us examine it and offer the best in preventative and direct care. Call our Medford office at (541) 776-3338 or complete our contact form today.