Foot pain can prevent you from actively participating in the activities you enjoy. Your feet may suffer wear and tear as they transport you to where you need to go, keep you balanced, and carry your weight. If you don’t take care to pamper your tootsies, there are several conditions that can develop and stop you in your tracks. Bunions are a deformity of the foot that can cause pain, agony, and difficulty in finding footwear that is comfortable and fits properly. Read on for facts about this painful condition, how to recognize and treat it, and, most importantly, how you may be able to prevent it.
11. What Are Bunions?
A bunion is a bony bulge of the lower joint of the big toe, which is the first metatarsal phalangeal joint. This painful condition occurs over time, as pressure causes the big toe to slant toward the other toes of the foot. Meanwhile, the metatarsal bone attached to the toe will begin to point outwards. This deformity results in a red, swollen bump at the base of the toe, which causes pain. It also makes it difficult to find comfortable shoes that will accommodate the shape of the foot and prevent placing extra pressure on the bunion.
10. Symptoms of Bunions
Other symptoms may accompany the hard, red, bony bump of a bunion. One of these symptoms is thickened skin on the second toe where the wayward big toe presents friction and pressure. The skin over the bunion itself may become red and swollen, especially due to the pressure of restrictive footwear. In addition to the pain caused by uncomfortable shoes, you may suffer from a dull ache or a throbbing in the joint of the toe. Spending a lot of time on your feet can worsen bunion pain.
9. Risk Factors
Wearing tight, pointy, or ill-fitting shoes can contribute to the formation of bunions. However, not all bunions can be blamed on footwear. Factors beyond your control such as an inherited foot shape or bone structure can cause bunions. Additionally, arthritic conditions such as osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis can contribute to the formation of a bunion. Sometimes a bunion is caused by pressure on the foot due to neuromuscular conditions, or by walking with an unusual gait. Adolescent bunions may occur in young girls. Bunions at this age are generally due to genetic factors, rather than improper footwear.
8. What Is a Bunionette?
A bunionette, otherwise known as a tailor’s bunion, is a bunion that occurs on the opposite side of the foot, near the baby toe. According to Foot Health Facts, this bunion got its name when tailors would sit cross-legged for hours. Sitting this way caused pressure and friction on the little toe and outer area of the foot, resulting in swelling and inflammation of the joint. Although a bunionette affects the outer side of the foot, treatment is the same as that of a bunion.
7. Diagnosis of Bunions
A bunion is generally easy to diagnosis, with its characteristic red, swollen bulge and slanted big toe. However, your doctor will likely order an x-ray to determine the extent of the damage to the metatarsal phalangeal joint. An x-ray will also allow your physician to see the extent of the deformity to the bones and joints of the rest of your foot. This will help determine the best treatment for your bunion.
6. Proper Footwear
Depending on the extent of the foot deformity, the pain of a bunion may require no treatment other than proper footwear. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons offers several tips for purchasing shoes that fit properly. They include ideas such as trying on shoes in the evening rather than the morning, since this is when your feet are at their biggest. Also, walk around in the shoes to determine their comfort. Make sure there is enough room at the widest part of the shoe. If your feet slightly differ in size, choose a shoe that is comfortable for your larger foot.
5. Ice and Medications
The pain and swelling of a bunion may improve with ice application. You may discover that applying an ice pack provides relief from the pain of your bunion. Apply an ice pack or ice wrapped in a cloth for no more than 20 minutes at a time to keep swelling down. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents can also help with the pain and inflammation of the swollen joint of the toe. Speak with your physician about whether medications such as ibuprofen or naproxen may be helpful for your pain. If arthritis is contributing to your bunion, your doctor may prescribe additional medications.
4. Padding or Orthotics
While using padding or orthotics will not cure your bunion, they can provide pain relief. Over-the-counter pads may cushion and shield your bunion from pressure. Make sure the padding is not applying additional pressure to the joint of your toe. Instead, the padding should prevent your shoe from squeezing the bone. Placing a special spacer between your big toe and the second toe may relieve pain. Another bunion product is a special splint you can wear to bed that holds your toe in a straighter position. You may also speak with your doctor about custom-made orthotics or shoe inserts.
In some cases, surgery is the best option for correcting your foot deformity. Bunion surgeries are typically performed on an outpatient basis. However, it can take several weeks to heal and recover. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, there are several types of bunion surgery. Surgery for a mild bunion may involve removing only a portion of the bulging bone. In other cases, the metatarsal bone of the foot may be cut. This helps to realign the foot and angle the big toe away from the other toes. The surgeon will also realign the ligaments and tendons that surround the joint.
The foot deformity caused by a bunion can alter the way you walk, causing pressure and strain on other structures of the foot. Therefore, a bunion can lead to other complications and foot conditions. Bursitis occurs when the small sacs of fluid that provide lubrication between bones or muscles become inflamed. Metatarsalgia is pain and inflammation of the ball of the foot that occurs due to stress or overuse. Hammertoe typically afflicts the joints of the second, third, or fourth toes of the foot. In this case, the middle joint of the toe bends abnormally, causing pain and pressure.
Since bunions cannot be cured through medication, prevention is key to avoid suffering from this painful condition. For some, bunions may be an inherited disorder. However, in other cases, you may be able to take steps to prevent them from developing. Purchase roomy, well-fitting shoes in your proper size. Avoid wearing shoes with pointy toes that will place pressure on your joints. Similarly, avoid wearing high heels, as they place stress on the ball of your foot. Select shoes that provide proper arch support, or purchase either prescription or over-the-counter shoe inserts that will cushion and support your feet.