The foot is made up of many small bones that sit perfectly together forming many joints. The big toe joint comprises of the first metatarsal and the proximal (close) phalanx of the toe. A bunion forms when base of the toe (first metatarsal) drifts away from the second metatarsal. The 1st metatarsal rotates and drops and so no longer sits in its correct alignment. The tip of the first toe then rotates and drifts inwards. Overtime, under the continuing stress of this altered position of the joint and the irritation that this causes, the joint can become inflamed.
Bunions are a result of complex biomechanical changes that occur in your feet. The type of footwear that you wear does cause bunions. We know that foot bunions occur in about 30% of the population of most Western countries but only 3% in Eastern countries. They are seen most commonly in women and become more common as people get older. Tight-fitting shoes are thought to be the main cause of bunions.. Shoes such as high heels and shoes with tight toe boxes (eg womens fashion shoes and cowboy boots) are particularly damaging to the toes. These shoes have a sloping foot bed and a narrow toe box. The slope causes the front of the foot to bear your weight, which encourages your forefoot to widen. Also, the angle pushes your toes into the narrow toe box, causing the toes to become angled and squeezed together.
Alteration in alignment of the first toe. Pain in the 1st toe joint with movement. Restriction in range of demi pointe. Inflammation of the 1st toe joint. Rotation of the big toe so that the nail no longer faces upwards. Occasionally bruising of the toe nail occurs.
Generally, observation is adequate to diagnose a bunion, as the bump is obvious on the side of the foot or base of the big toe. However, your physician may order X-rays that will show the extent of the deformity of the foot.
Non Surgical Treatment
Most of the time, non-surgical (conservative) treatment can control the symptoms of a foot bunion or bunionette. These include. Appropriate Footwear, changing to wide fitting footwear reduces the pressure on the big toe and prevents shoes from rubbing on the bony lump. When possible, go barefoot Toe stretchers are a really simple way to reduce foot bunion pain. Toe Stretchers, wearing toe spaces that fit in-between the toes help to stretch the muscles and ligaments around the toes, improving the alignment and relieving pain. Find out more about how these work in the Toe Stretcher section. Painkillers, your doctor may prescribe or recommend over-the-counter medication to reduce the pain and inflammation. Foot bunion correctors can be worn in your shoe to help realign your foot if you suffer from foot bunions. Orthotics. There are a number of over-the-counter shoe inserts that can help relieve symptoms. Bunion correctors work by realigning the bones in your foot to reduce pressure on the affected toe. There are both day-time and night-time splints on the market, although the evidence of their effectiveness is lacking. Ice. Applying ice packs to the foot can help reduce pain and inflammation. Bunion pads help to reduce any friction on your big toe. Bunion Pads. You can also get protective foot cushions that sit over the skin to prevent the hallux abducto valgus rubbing on your shoes.
Surgery takes place either under local or general anaesthetic and takes about one hour. After surgery you will have either a plaster cast or special dressing on the foot and you will be given a special walking shoe and crutches to use the first few days/weeks. Recovery usually takes approximately 6-8 weeks but swelling often lasts longer and it may take a few months before you are able to wear normal shoes again. Full recovery can take up to a year. Bunion surgery is successful in approximately 85% of cases, but it is vital not to go back to wearing ill-fitting shoes else the problem is likely to return.
Bunions often become painful if they are allowed to progress. But not all bunions progress. Many bunion problems can be managed without surgery. In general, bunions that are not painful do not need surgical correction. For this reason, orthopaedic surgeons do not recommend ?preventive? surgery for bunions that do not hurt, with proper preventive care, they may never become a problem.