Bunions: Causes And Treatment

As much as humans rely on their feet, it seems odd that a foot should be so small and such a complex mechanical structure with so many bones, joints, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. When your feet hurt, everything in life is more difficult. One common foot problem, especially in women, is bunions. Here is what you need to know.

What Is A Bunion?

A bunion is an overgrowth of bone on the big toe. It occurs at the base of the big toe, where the big toe joint meets the rest of the foot. You can also get a smaller version on your pinky toe. It is common in women because wearing tight shoes with a narrow toe cap is the most frequent cause of a bunion. High-heeled shoes may look cute, but they aren't good for your feet and can cause issues in other parts of your body. Occasionally, arthritis or a genetic predisposition may also result in bunions.

What Are The Symptoms Of A Bunion?

In addition to the obvious bulge, the joint may be red, swollen, and painful. The pain may come and go, or it may be persistent. As the bunion grows, it may be difficult to find shoes to wear. People often buy extra-wide shoes to accommodate the bunion. Unfortunately, these poorly fitting shoes can cause their own problems.

How Are Small Bunions Treated?

Minor bunions can be dealt with by not wearing high heels or other shoes that crowd the toes together. Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen, ice packs, and prescription orthotics like arch supports from the podiatrist can all help alleviate bunion pain and prevent their further growth.

How Are Big Bunions Treated?

Unfortunately, major bunions usually require surgical removal. Bunions most often occur on both feet, but surgeons typically prefer to do only one foot at a time. The method of surgery depends on each individual case, and the technique used can even vary between the two feet.

One of the most common methods of bunion surgery involves the big toe joint. The bony outgrowth is removed and then the big toe is broken so that it can be realigned. Recovery will require at least one week of bed rest, with the foot elevated and iced. If a person has a desk job, they may be ready to return after a week or two, but if they have a job that requires being on their feet extensively, they may need six weeks to recover. An orthotic device will be prescribed to discourage eventual bunion regrowth.