What is a bunion?
A bunion (also termed hallux valgus) is a bony bump that forms on the side of your big toe. On patients with bunions, you may notice that their big toe appears to shift towards the smaller toes and the outside of the foot. It can be caused by a variety of factors including genetics, footwear, and the types of activities you regularly engage in.
What causes bunions?
Oftentimes, bunions develop from pressure being placed on the joint of your big toe (the metatarsophalangeal or MTP joint) for an extended period of time. This pressure can be caused by a misalignment of the foot (abnormal foot structure) or by the way you walk.
With a properly aligned foot, the big toe joint is accustomed to bending in a forwards and back motion. But with a misaligned foot—such as a flat foot—your arch collapses and the foot rolls inwards. When this occurs, the big toe joint gets twisted and the surrounding bones, ligaments, and muscles become strained.
Bunions start small and grow gradually. With each step you take, the big toe joint flexes and your ligaments and muscles stretch with it. Over time, excessive strain changes the structure of the foot, and the deformity worsens. The joint will swell, become irritated, and increase in size—leading to the characteristic bony lump that is seen on the inside of the foot.
How to treat bunions
One of our main goals in treating bunions is to support the arch of the foot and prevent it from collapsing. By doing this, the muscles and ligaments of the foot surrounding the big toe joint will be released and experience much less tension and strain. We can prescribe devices, such as orthotic insoles, to provide the support your foot needs.
Improving patient footwear is also one of our top priorities when it comes to tackling bunion growth. We suggest staying away from narrow or pointed shoes that squeeze your toes together.
Furthermore, we help patients implement stretching and strengthening exercises into their daily routines. These practices aid in reinforcing the muscles that work to keep your foot straight and in a neutral position.
When should I treat a bunion?
Ideally, you should begin treatment as soon as a bunion is identified. The larger a bunion is, the harder it will be to remedy, and they will not go away without treatment. In extreme cases, surgery may be necessary, but we aim to stop or slow down bunion progression as much as possible before it reaches this stage.
Please comment below with any questions or concerns you may have about bunions. We look forward to hearing from you!