Often unsightly and sometimes painful, bunions are common foot deformities that can have several causes. Let’s shine a light on their origins, prevention, and treatments.

What is a bunion?

Also known as “hallux valgus,” a bunion is a displacement of the bones that form the first metatarsophalangeal joint. While growing, the bone pushes the big toe inward and can cause a protrusion on the outside of the foot. Bunions can sometimes appear on the fifth metatarsal joint – that is to say, near the little toe. This is called a tailor’s bunion or a bunionette.

Bunions can be painful, but some people afflicted with them don’t suffer.

Causes of bunions

Bunions are likely to appear for the following reasons:

–       Family history (a wide foot or a long big toe, for example);

–       Arthritis or other joint disorders;

–       Neuromuscular disorders;

–       A birth defect;

–       Ankle inversion;

–       Frequently wearing high-heeled, poorly fitting, and/or pointed shoes;

–       Menopause (which promotes the expansion of the forefoot);

–       Hypermobility of the joints, especially the 1st radius.

In Canada, only 8% of men, compared to 38% of women, are affected by bunions. The most common cause is wearing poorly fitting shoes.

How to detect a bunion

When it appears, the bunion doesn’t cause any serious pain; however, redness or swelling may be observed. A big toe that turns inward is also a first indicator for detecting bunions. In general, affected patients feel discomfort in the joint.

Prevention

The best way to prevent the appearance of bunions is to protect your feet every day. To do that, you should wear comfortable shoes that are wide enough. Make sure that the tips of your shoes don’t touch the tips of your longest toes. If you have high arches or, on the other hand, flat feet, don’t hesitate to consult a specialist to take advantage of suitable insoles. Besides reducing the risk of the appearance of bunions, this will improve your balance.

Treating bunions

The treatment chosen to reduce or eliminate the discomfort caused by a bunion depends on its growth and the decisions of the patient. The latter can choose surgical or non-surgical methods.

Surgical method

Surgery makes it possible to straighten the big toe by putting the bones back in the right place. The bones are then stabilized by pins, screws, or metal clips. This method is the most effective and the longest lasting, but it requires walking on your heels for three to four weeks and avoiding driving during the same timeframe.

Non-surgical method

To protect your feet and reduce pain or discomfort, you can opt for:

–       Pads to be applied to the sore area;

–       Physiotherapy sessions;

–       Taking anti-inflammatory medications (orally or in gel form);

–       Wearing properly fitting shoes without heels;

–       Wearing a brace at night to reduce pressure on the joint;

–       Insoles that fit your feet to stop the growth of the bunion.

Do you think you’re suffering from a bunion? Don’t hesitate to contact a podiatric clinic to establish an accurate diagnosis. You can also receive sound advice and possibly consider solutions for alleviating your pain and regaining your comfort while walking.

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