What is a bunion?
A bunion, also known as “hallux valgus,” is a painful bony bump that forms at the big toe joint on the inside of the foot. Bunions form at the metatarsophalangeal joint (MTP) joint, where the two bones that make up the big toe, called the phalanx and metatarsal meet. They develop slowly and cause more and more pain over time. Bunions may also cause difficulty walking or wearing shoes. They are very common, with an estimated 50% of adults having bunions.
What are the Symptoms of Bunions?
- Bony bump that is visible on the big toe
- Pain and soreness
- Redness and inflammation
- Presence of corns or a callus
- Stiffness and limited range of motion of the big toe, which may cause difficulty walking
- Numbness or burning sensation
What are the Causes for Bunions?
While there are risk factors that can cause bunions to develop, the bone structure that causes bunions to grow is thought to be inherited. Here are some contributing bunion risk factors:
- Wearing poorly fitted, tight shoes – Many women wear shoes that are narrow and have a sharply pointed-toe and/or high-heel structures that put their toes in less natural positions. Worn over time, these types of shoes can contribute to bunions.
- Overpronation – Having a low arch or flat foot, which creates instability of the toe and foot joints and can lead to the formation of a bunion.
- Inflammatory conditions – Different types of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis can cause bunions.
- Foot injuries – Due to the trauma involved to the bones of the big toes, injuries to the foot may cause bunions to form.
- Nerve & muscle conditions – This cause of bunions is less common. An example would be a bunion associated with having polio.
What are the Treatment Options for Bunions?
Non-Surgical Treatment Options
- Well-Fitted Shoes – One way to prevent and treat bunions is to wear properly fitted shoes that have a wide toe box. This will eliminate the amount of pressure put on both the toe and foot.
- Pain Medications – Additionally, over-the-counter pain-relieving medications, such as ibuprofen, may be used to reduce the pain and swelling associated with bunions.
- Injection Therapy – Cortisone injections are another treatment option to consider to reduce inflammation.
- Orthotic Inserts – These inserts are placed directly in the shoe and aid in keeping the big toe in a correct, straight position, which may relieve a patient’s pain. Splints may also be worn at night and utilized for the same purpose. Another relatively inexpensive treatment option are “Bunion Shields.” These are protective pads that cushion the painful bunion area. They are available at your local drugstore or pharmacy.
- Icing – A quick, easy treatment method. Applying ice several times a day for a 20-minute duration can help reduce swelling.
Bunion Surgery Techniques
Bunion correction surgery may be considered when non-surgical options have failed. Surgical procedures for treating bunions include:
- Metatarsal Osteotomy – A corrective surgery performed to realign the great toe joint, which typically can be done in a minimally invasive fashion.
- Midfoot Arthrodesis (Fusion) – Performed for severe bunion cases with a non-arthritic great toe joint.
- Great Toe Arthrodesis – A highly successful procedure for severely arthritic bunions and revision cases or failed bunionectomies.
- Osteotomy – A corrective surgery that consists of cutting or removing a piece of bone.
- Tendon and Ligament Repair – This typically involves lengthening the toe and removing any weak joint tissue; frequently done in combination with an Osteotomy.
- Exostectomy – Surgical removal of the bony bump on the MTP joint; typically performed in conjunction with an Osteotomy.
- Arthrodesis – Involves the removal of the swollen joint surface. This option is generally used for patients who have a severe bunion, suffer from arthritis and for whom previous bunion surgical procedures have failed.
Advanced Bunion Technologies
- Lapiplasty 3D Bunion Correction – This technology provides advanced ability to support the surgeon in correcting all three dimensions of the bunion deformity at the root of the problem to restore the natural anatomy of the foot. A major benefit of this procedure is that most patients can walk within days after surgery and experience a faster recovery.
- Minimally Invasive Bunion Surgery – A technique that leading foot and ankle surgeons are trained in that reduces trauma to the foot, decreases pain and increases recovery over traditional bunion surgery.
To learn more about bunions, make an appointment with David Larson, DPM, today. Call the nearest office to speak with a staff member or request an appointment online.