Knowing how bunions develop is helpful in selecting the appropriate bunion treatment. In general, most bunion deformities are a result of foot structure and function which are genetic. As the heel strikes the ground when walking, the joints of the foot unlock and absorb impact. Referred to as pronation, the arch collapses causing the feet to flatten. This flattening causes excessive tension of the tendon in the upper mid-foot that enables the big toe to bend upward. The tendon contracts which then forces the big toe to be pulled laterally toward the second toe. It can take many years for a bunion to develop, and especially to the point of pain. One can have a bunion but not yet experience any bunion pain. Conversely, one can suffer from bunion pain without having a severe deformity.
Bunions are caused by pressure on the inside of the forefoot which causes the 1st metatarsal bone in the foot to migrating outwards. Biomechanical factors can contribute to the development of bunions for example if you over pronate where the foot rolls in or flattens excessively which causes the inside of the foot to rub against the shoe. Wearing high heeled shoes regularly also increases the risk of developing the condition . The pressure on the forefoot is increased considerably as the heel is raised up. Age is also a factor as the ligaments lose strength as you get older.
Corns and calluses may occur on the soles of the feet, in between toes and on the bunion joint. Stiffness can occur at the big toe due to secondary arthritis, this is known as Hallux Rigidus. Other foot conditions can occur such as in growing toenails and in severe cases the bunion joint may have a fluid filled sack called a bursitis. This can be very painful and can become infected.
People with bunions may be concerned about the changing appearance of their feet, but it is usually the pain caused by the condition that leads them to consult their doctor. The doctor will evaluate any symptoms experienced and examine the affected foot for joint enlargement, tissue swelling and/or tenderness. They will also assess any risk factors for the condition and will ask about family history. An x-ray of the foot is usually recommended so that the alignment of big toe joint can be assessed. This would also allow any other conditions that may be affecting the joint, such as arthritis, to be seen.
Non Surgical Treatment
You can try over-the-counter remedies like pads to stop them rubbing, or take painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen if they play up. Devices that fit into your shoe, called orthotics, or splints that you wear at night, can slow the progression of bunions. If these don't help and the bunion is causing a painful and substantial deformity that?s seriously limiting your footwear, your GP will probably refer you to see a podiatrist, medical professionals who specialise in feet. They can give further advice about non-invasive treatments and also refer you for an operation, either with a podiatric or orthopaedic (bone) surgeon, ultimately the only thing that can correct the gnarly blighters. You can visit a podiatrist privately, which will cost anything from ?140-?200. But Mike O?Neill, spokesperson for the Society of Podiatrists and Chiropodists, suggest always going via your GP, who will know the best qualified. Such is the complexity of the bone structure of the foot, there are more than 130 different surgical procedures for bunions. One person?s op may be very different from another?s, so be wary of sounding out a friend about theirs.
There are a range of different surgeries that can be performed with the goal of realigning the joint and relieving pain ranging from shaving off part of the bone to cutting and realigning the bone with pins and screws. Depending on the surgery full recovery can take months and require you to stay off the foot. One new type of surgery, called a tightrope, involves attaching a wire to the bone to try and pull it back into alignment, but be wary of this procedure because there have not been any long-term outcome studies yet.