Bunions are a relatively common foot problem, with as many as 1 in 30 adults under 30 and up to 1 in 6 adults over 60 suffering from some form of the condition. Over time, uneven pressure on the foot causes the big toe to drift toward the second toe, enlarging the joint at the base of the big toe and pushing it outward, reshaping the inside of your foot.
Formation and Symptoms
In the most basic terms, bunions form when your joints and tendons bear weight unevenly, putting extra pressure on your big toe joint and causing it to fall out of alignment. The root cause could be one (or more) of many things—an inherited structural defect in your foot, flat feet, ill-fitting shoes, rheumatoid arthritis—but the result is the same: a big toe pushing towards the smaller toes and a hard, ugly knob on the side of your foot. The condition develops slowly, but eventually it can begin to cause pain and swelling, limit your mobility, and can cause secondary conditions such as bursitis, corns, hammertoe, and metatarsalgia.
WHAT TREATMENT OPTIONS EXIST?
Bunions may be unsightly, and without surgery they are permanent. They aren’t always necessary to treat, though, if they aren’t bothering you. If you catch it early enough, something as simple as wearing properly fitting shoes can help minimize pressure on the bump and stop it from getting any worse.
However, if you find that your bump is causing pain or tenderness, swelling, restricting your motion, or making it difficult to find fitting shoes due to the misshapen foot, you should see the experts at Foot Care Specialists, PC right away for more substantial treatment options.
Our Bunion Specialist, Dr. Marshall Lukoff, can evaluate the extent of the deformity using an X-ray, and can also take a blood test to see if arthritis or some other condition is a complicating factor. Based on these or other test results, they can craft an appropriate treatment plan for your situation. Custom orthotics, splints, or other shoe inserts may help; we may also recommend a fully customized shoe with modified insoles and uppers that minimize pressure on the knob. Over-the-counter pain relievers can help, and you may find that taking a foot bath in warm water or using a heating pad or ice pack brings some short-term relief.
If symptoms are severe, surgery is the last resort. However, since a bunionectomy is a substantial procedure that involves more risks and potential complications, it is recommended only when absolutely necessary—never just for aesthetic purposes. At a minimum, surgery requires cutting the ligaments surrounding the joint and realigning the bone, and in extreme cases may also require cutting the bone itself and using wires or screws to keep reset bones in place. Full recovery can take weeks or even months, and the condition may recur later anyway.
HOW CAN I STOP THEM BEFORE THEY START?
The best policy, clearly, is to not let the issue develop to that point in the first place. Fortunately, bunions develop very slowly over time, so by making a few common-sense lifestyle changes, you can help prevent them from occurring, or halt their progress before symptoms emerge.
Always wear shoes that properly support your feet and don’t pinch your toes. There’s a reason women see these bumps much more frequently than men—a lifetime of high heels and pointed toes takes its toll. Regular stretching and exercise strengthens your feet and ankle muscles and joints so they can withstand more abuse without deforming—try picking up small objects with your toes as part of your regular routine. And keep track of your foot shape over time, especially if you have a family history of foot problems. The earlier you spot a bump and seek help, the more successful and simple treatment will likely be.
If you notice a bunion forming or are experiencing any pain or discomfort, call Marshall L. Lukoff, DPM to set up an evaluation. He can set you on the right path and get you back on your feet. We have two convenient Norfolk County, MA, locations—Quincy and Dedham—to serve you. Dial (617) 479-7921 ((617) 479-7921) or visit the contact page to schedule an appointment.
CAUSES OF HAMMERTOE INCLUDE IMPROPERLY FITTING SHOES & MUSCLE IMBALANCE.
Treatment for the condition typically involves wearing shoes with soft, roomy toe boxes and toe exercises to stretch and strengthen the muscles. Commercially available straps, cushions, or nonmedicated corn pads may also relieve symptoms.
In severe cases, hammertoe surgery may be recommended to correct the deformity. Contact our Quincy, MA office at the Crown Colony Medical Center for more information.