The bunion, or hallux valgus, is a condition that affects the bones and joints associated with the great toe. It is one of the most common deformities of the forefoot. The condition develops slowly and results from the gradual dislocation of the joint, usually because of instability during gait. There is a displacement of the first metatarsal bone toward the mid-line of the body, and a simultaneous displacement of the great toe away from the mid-line (and toward the smaller toes). This causes a prominence of bone on the inside (medial) margin of the forefoot, this is termed a bunion. As the deformity progresses, the big toe will shift toward the outside of the foot. In severe cases, the big toe will actually overlap or under lap the second toe. It is often of a hereditary nature, but it is also associated with rheumatoid arthritis and other diseases. There are no exercises, splints or other devices that reliably correct a bunion. Orthotics can sometimes slow or halt the progression by addressing the instability which causes the deformity, but they cannot reduce the deformity.
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.
SymptomsRedness, swelling, or pain along the inside margin of the foot just behind the great toe. Moderate to severe discomfort at the bunion when wearing shoes, particularly if tight fitting. A painful callus may develop over the bunion. Sometimes a painful corn on the adjacent sides of the first and second toes. Irritation if there is overlapping of the first and second toes. Arthritis may cause stiffness and discomfort in the joint between the great toe and the first metatarsal. There may be a fluid filled cyst or bursa between the skin and the “bunion bone”. Skin over the bunion may break down causing an ulceration, which can become infected.
Your doctor is very likely to be able to diagnose your bunion simply by examining your foot. Even before that, he or she will probably ask about your family and personal medical history and evaluate the types of shoes you wear. You’ll be asked about your symptoms, when they started and when they occur. You may also be asked to flex your toe so that your doctor can get an idea of your range of motion. He or she may order x-rays in order to determine the extent of your deformity.
Non Surgical Treatment
Some bunions can be treated without surgery. If you have a bunion, wear shoes that are roomy enough so that they won?t put pressure on it. You can choose to have your shoes stretched out professionally or try cushioning the painful area with protective pads. Orthotics have been shown to help prevent progression of bunions. Oral nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, may be recommended to reduce pain and inflammation. Applying an ice pack several times a day can also help reduce inflammation and pain. If your bunion progresses to a point where you have difficulty walking or experience pain even with accommodative shoes, surgery may be necessary.
For more severe cases, surgery may be necessary. Bunion surgery aims to bring your big toe back into its correct position. Several different surgical procedures have been used to treat bunions. These include ‘shaving’ excess bone, removing the end of one of the bones or breaking and re-aligning the misplaced bone. Rehabilitation from bunion surgery can be quite long and usually involves you keeping off your foot for some weeks. It may take a year or more for complete recovery.
Here are some tips to help you prevent bunions. Wear shoes that fit well. Use custom orthotic devices. Avoid shoes with small toe boxes and high heels. Exercise daily to keep the muscles of your feet and legs strong and healthy. Follow your doctor?s treatment and recovery instructions thoroughly. Unfortunately, if you suffer from bunions due to genetics, there may be nothing you can do to prevent them from occurring. Talk with your doctor about additional prevention steps you can take, especially if you are prone to them.