Bunions are common but they can be misdiagnosed. We sometimes assume that any lump at the bottom of the big toe is a bunion. But as the Latin name (hallux valgus) suggests, the hallmark of a bunion is what happens to the toe itself (the hallux) rather than to the joint at its base. In bunions, the toe veers off in a valgus direction, that is, away from the midline. An outcrop of extra bone, or osteophyte, develops as the body tries to protect the exposed surface of the warped first metatarsophalangeal joint (MTP); a fluid-filled sac, or bursa, may also form, which often becomes inflamed. Foot experts are still not entirely agreed about what causes bunions. Genetics and lax ligaments are both implicated; the role of footwear is less clear. All bunion conversations seem to involve someone stating that barefoot tribes people don?t get bunions. This is not true.
Inflammatory joint diseases. Those who suffer from rheumatoid and psoriatic arthritis are at risk for bunions, although many times, those who suffer from bunions will mistakenly attribute the soreness in their feet to arthritis. Genetic and neuromuscular factors. Individuals with Down?s Syndrome are believed to be more prone to developing bunions; therefore, the gait and feet of such patients should be examined carefully and regularly so that any problems can be caught and treated early. Similarly, individuals of any age who have been diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos or Marfan?s Syndrome, have also been shown to have a higher than average occurrence of bunions. Limb inequality. Individuals who have legs of unequal length often suffer from bunions on the longer limb due to the irregular mechanics of their walking or running gait.
The main problem is usually the pressure of the shoe over the bony prominence, which causes discomfort or pain. Sometimes the skin over the lump becomes red, blistered or infected. The foot may become so broad that it is difficult to get wide enough shoes. The big toe sometimes tilts over so much that it rubs on the second toe, or pushes it up out of place so it presses on the shoe. Also, the big toe does not work as well with a bunion, and the other toes have to take more of the weight of the body as you walk. This can cause pain under the ball of the foot ("metatarsalgia"). Sometimes arthritis develops in the deformed joint, causing pain in the joint.
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
Bunions may be treated conservatively with changes in shoe gear, different orthotics (accommodative padding and shielding), rest, ice and medications. These sorts of treatments address symptoms more than they correct the actual deformity. Surgery, by an orthopedic surgeon or a podiatric surgeon, may be necessary if discomfort is severe enough or when correction of the deformity is desired. Orthotics are splints or regulators while conservative measures include various footwear like gelled toe spacers, bunion toes separators, bunion regulators, bunion splints and bunion cushions. There are a variety of available orthotics (or orthoses) including over-the-counter or off-the-shelf commercial products and as necessary, custom-molded orthotics that are generally prescribed medical devices.
Surgical options, such as a bunionectomy, can remove the bunion and realign the toe. There are several types of surgeries to fix the bunion. The type of bunion you have along with other factors such as the degree of severity and underlying cause of the bunion will determine which approach would be most beneficial for you.
If these exercises cause pain, don't overdo them. Go as far as you can without causing pain that persists. This first exercise should not cause pain, but is great for stimulating blood and lymphatic circulation. Do it as often as you can every day. Only do this exercise after confirming it is OK with your doctor. Lie on your back and lift up your legs above you. Wiggle your toes and feet. Eventually you may be able to rapidly shake your feet for a minute at a time. Use your fingers to pull your big toe into proper alignment. Stretch your big toe and the rest of your toes. Curl them under for 10 seconds, then relax and let them point straight ahead for 10 seconds. Repeat several times. Do this at least once a day, and preferably several times. Flex your toes by pressing them against the floor or a wall until they are bent back. Hold them for 10 seconds, then release. Repeat several times. Grip with your toes. Practice picking up an article of clothing with your toes, dropping it, and then picking it up again. Warm water. Soak your feet for 20 minutes in a bowl of warm water. Try doing the foot exercises while soaking, and also relax and rest your feet. Epsom salts. Add it to your warm foot bath soak.