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.
Contributing factors may include excessive foot pronation, wearing tight and pointed-toe shoes, and occasionally trauma. Joint misalignment causes osteoarthritis with cartilage erosion and exostosis formation, resulting in joint motion being limited (hallux limitus) or eliminated (hallux rigidus). In late stages, synovitis occurs, causing joint swelling. In reaction to pressure from tight shoes, an adventitious bursa can develop medial to the joint prominence, which can become painful, swollen, and inflamed.
SymptomsSymptoms include redness, swelling and pain which may be present along the inside margin of the foot. The patients feet may become too wide to fit into their normal size shoes and moderate to severe discomfort may occur when the patient is wearing tight shoes. A “hammer toe” may occur at the 2nd toe. This is when the toe contracts and presses on the shoe. Subsequently, this may cause a corn on top of the 2nd toe.
A thorough medical history and physical exam by a physician is necessary for the proper diagnosis of bunions and other foot conditions. X-rays can help confirm the diagnosis by showing the bone displacement, joint swelling, and, in some cases, the overgrowth of bone that characterizes bunions. Doctors also will consider the possibility that the joint pain is caused by or complicated by Arthritis, which causes destruction of the cartilage of the joint. Gout, which causes the accumulation of uric acid crystals in the joint. Tiny fractures of a bone in the foot or stress fractures. Infection. Your doctor may order additional tests to rule out these possibilities.
Non Surgical Treatment
If you suspect a bunion, it is essential that you confirm your suspicions by consulting with a podiatric physician. Don?t try to treat the problem yourself, even by using conservative measures. Many conditions have similar symptoms, and only a professional can tell the difference. Once a diagnosis is obtained, it is essential to begin treatment immediately. Your podiatric physician will advise you on the most effective means. If caught early enough, good foot care, shoes that fit properly, and/or orthoses may eliminate the need for any further intervention. Certain over-the-counter remedies, such as felt or foam pads, applied to specific areas of the foot to relieve pressure and friction, will protect the bunion. Elevating the foot and icing the area for 20 minutes an hour may help to relieve pain.
If your bunion has progressed to the point where you have difficulty walking, or experience pain despite accommodating shoes, you may need surgery. Bunion surgery realigns bone, ligaments, tendons and nerves so your big toe can be brought back to its correct position. Orthopedic surgeons have several techniques to ease your pain. Many bunion surgeries are done on a same-day basis, requiring no hospital stay, using an ankle-block anesthesia. A long recovery is common and may include persistent swelling and stiffness.
If you are genetically at risk, not a lot. But shoes that are too narrow, too tight (even ballet flats) or have very high heels that force your toes down into the pointed end are asking for trouble. Aim for a 1cm gap between your toes and the end of your shoes. This doesn?t mean wearing frumpy flatties, the Society of Podiatrists and Chiropodists recommends sticking to 4cm heels for everyday wear, and wearing different types of shoe to vary the position of your foot. Gladiator styles can help because the straps stop your foot pushing down into the point of the shoe, ditto Mary Janes (sorry but for beautiful feet they need to have a strap), and flat, wide-fitting brogues are a no-brainer. Alternatively, in summer you can wear flip-flops to keep the space between your big and second toe as wide as possible. If you have children it?s vital to make sure that their feet are measured for properly fitting shoes to nip any potential problems in the bud. Keeping your feet and lower legs supple and strong is important too, that?s how A-list celebs get away with wearing killer heels, they all work-out like crazy. Exercises like trying to widen the space between your big toe and the second one with your foot flat on the floor, a few times a day can help, as can calf stretches. If you are devoted to any exercise that involves high impact for your feet, it might be worth checking that your gait and shoes are correct with a specialist shop such as Runners Need, as poor styles can cause irreparable bunion-related problems that will consign your trainers to the back of the cupboard for ever.