It’s a bony lump called a bunion that forms at the joint where the big toe meets the foot, called the metatarsophalangeal joint (MTP). It happens slowly over time and ends up getting bigger and standing out. This can cause the big toe to roll over, sometimes so far that it travels over the toe next to it.
Unfortunately, recent research has revealed that most bunions are a genetic defect that cannot be cured by switching to more comfortable shoes. And if you don’t treat them, they can get worse over time.
Bunions are a simple ailment, affecting up to a third of women and men in the United States. Women are more likely to suffer from hallux valgus than men.
Although no one gene has yet been identified, you are more likely to have a bunion if someone else in your family has it. Usually, bunions do not develop until adulthood although some young children do get bunions.
While some bunions are nothing more than a cosmetic issue, if your big toe hurts or prevents you from walking or finding suitable shoes, podiatrist Dr Monique Muronda doesn’t want you to be in pain anymore. At Lansdowne Podiatry, she offers a variety of treatments for bunions, surgical and conservative–including a type of surgery known as a bunionectomy. While some foot gadgets can ease pain, foot surgery is the only option that will permanently correct a bunion.
Keep Small Bunions From Growing Worse
When your bunions are small, you may only feel a little discomfort. In a case like this, switching to shoes with a broader toe can give your toes the room they need to spread out. Wearing pointy shoes will not cause bunions, but tight shoes can make bunions worse if you already have one.
Dr Monique Muronda recommends wide shoes with flat heels. High heels put too much pressure on the MTP joint. Plus, toe cramps increase the risk of developing painful corns and calluses.
If you have bunions and minimal discomfort, she can recommend custom orthotics to help your toes and keep your foot in healthy alignment. Custom orthotics can be made for just about any shoe. You can place the orthotics in your routine, well-fitting shoes (wide, flat toes), cross-fit, spin, and athletic shoes.
If the bunion is tender and inflamed, it can still rub against the shoe, even if you have a roomy toe box. Dr Monique Muronda may prescribe anti-inflammatory medications to reduce swelling and discomfort. Anti-inflammatory medicines also reduce osteoarthritis pain; if you have osteoarthritis, you are more likely to develop a bunion in the first place.
To keep you comfortable, she may also recommend that you cushion your bunion with store-bought moleskin or silicone gel bunion pads. You can also soothe the pain by massaging it or using hot or cold foot baths.
If your pain is severe, Dr Monique Muronda may give you an injection of cortisone. However, you should not use cortisone for the long term.
Surgery Heals Bunions
If the bunion is painful, bulky, and unattractive, or if it affects the way you walk, Dr Monique Muronda recommends a bunionectomy.
- Shaving the bone
- Cutting the bone
- Fusing the bone
- Fixating the MTP with screws
If you have had a bunionectomy, you will have to decrease your activity while it heals and uses an assistive device for several weeks. You may need to limit your activities over the next few months and even undergo physical therapy to help your foot gain strength and flexibility. You may also need to wear new custom orthotics if you also have a flatfoot associated with the bunion.