Our feet’s appearance can often be a source of shame and embarrassment, and one of the most common issues our patients are often concerned about are bunions.
What are bunions?
Medically known as hallux abducto valgus, a bunion is a bony bump that forms on the joint at the base of the big toe. The big toe pushes in towards the second toe creating misalignment in the foot.
Although particular types of footwear are often to be blamed for causing bunions, it is more likely you can thank your parents. Typically a combination of genetic predisposition and environmental factors (i.e. footwear, trauma/injury) bring on the presentation of bunions. Bunions typically develop over time and research has found they are more common in women and older individuals.
What are the symptoms of bunions?
Not all bunions are symptomatic, however the most common symptoms reported are pain and impaired mobility. Because the joint at the base of the big toe supports much of your weight when walking, bunions can cause significant and constant pain. Joint stiffness, inflammation and swelling at the base of the toe may also be present.
As the big toe shifts inwards it can push the second toe out of place and change the structure of the foot, also potentially causing the second toe to bend or curl (into a hammer toe). Bunions can also lead to difficulty fitting into footwear and can cause hard skin (callus) to build up on the sole of the foot in areas of increased pressure.
Beyond the feet, bunions can have a negative impact on overall quality of life, affecting general health and wellbeing, social function, mental health and vitality.
How are bunions treated?
Our job is to reassure patients firstly that they are not alone and there is nothing to be embarrassed about, and secondly, that there are many treatment options available to manage the symptoms of bunions and improve their overall quality of life.
We begin by treating bunions with a conservative approach. However, for more progressed or painful presentations there are also surgical options.
Non-invasive treatment can include the following:
- Taping and padding
- Removal of hard callus
- Dry needling
- Muscle strengthening exercises
- Footwear advice to minimise discomfort and minimise contributing factors
- Orthotics (although they won’t correct the alignment they can help reduce pain and prevent further progression of the bunion)
Invasive treatment options:
- Injection therapy (usually cortisone is used to reduce levels of pain)
- Surgery to correct alignment and remove the bony bump
If you have a bunion or have any questions related to your foot care, we are more than happy to help. Book an appointment here.