What are Bunions?
Bunions are boney bumps that develop on the side of your foot just behind your big toe. The bump is caused by the alignment of the bones changing, with the big toe leaning over closer to the second toe, which forces the joint to shift outwards, making it more prominent. The medical term for bunions is hallux valgus (or HV). A similar bump can also develop on the other side of your foot behind the little toe – this is called a bunionette.
Bunions occur in around 23% of adults aged between 18 and 651, with women over two times more likely to develop them than men. This increases to as many as 35% in people older than 65 years. Children and teenagers are also susceptible to bunions (8%). It is vital to identify and manage bunions early, as the condition is progressive and the bunions will generally get worse with time.
Pain from bunions can be due to skin and soft tissue irritation and inflammation, both at site of the bunion as well as in other toes. As the bunion progresses though, pain can be more severe and cause symptoms in multiple foot joints as they become more damaged.
Aside from problems associated with finding comfortable shoes, other areas of your feet and legs can be affected, as well as your balance and the way you walk. Studies have also demonstrated that bunions can increase falls risks in older people.
What causes bunions?
Bunions form due to an abnormal pull of the muscles around an unstable joint. Research suggests that the shape and position of certain bones in your feet may leave you more susceptible to bunions. In particular, the shape of the 1st metatarsal and the length of the first metatarsal bone seem to be associated with developing bunions2.
It is also thought that bunions may be hereditary. It has previously been thought that poor footwear (including high heels) and flat feet may be causes. Conditions such as Rheumatoid Arthritis and other connective tissue disorders also appear to increase your risk of developing bunions. Conditions such as gout and hallux limitus can also cause pain and swelling of the big toe joint. In our clinic we see that the way people walk can also be a factor. When the foot rolls in or ‘pronates; late in the walking cycle, the big toe may experience high pressures and be pushed out of alignment.
How can bunions be treated?
Early identification and management of your bunions will help to reduce the amount of deformity caused. At Footmotion, our highly skilled Podiatrists will thoroughly assess the factors contributing to your bunions. This will include assessing the extent of the deformity, muscle strength around the joint, the way you walk (may involve a biomechanical examination and computerised gait analysis) and checking your footwear. A comprehensive management programme may include:
- supportive, well-fitting footwear for work, sport or leisure
- exercises to stretch and strengthen the muscles around the joint
- protective padding, including customised silicon devices to wear in shoes
- braces and splints that are worn at night
- arch supports or prescription orthoses for foot support and correction of walking patterns
- coordinating care with other health professionals as required, for example referral for xrays if needed
In our experience, most people can get relief of the pain of their bunions quickly. Contact us today to book your appointment. At your visit, be sure to bring examples of your work, sports and leisure shoes so the podiatrist can give you the right advice straight away.
- Nix et al (2010)
- Nix et al (2012)