A bunion is an often painful enlargement of bone or tissue around the joint at the base of the big toe. If you have a bunion, you will notice a bump on your big toe joint. The big toe may turn in toward the second toe and the tissues surrounding the joint may be swollen and tender. Bunions can come from a variety of causes, including diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, or foot mechanics that place too much load on the ball of your foot. If untreated, bunions can worsen, leading to other serious complications, and even potentially require surgery. Early treatment is best, so if you?re suffering from bunions it?s smart to see a podiatrist for proper treatment and care.
Bunions are the byproduct of unnatural forces and motion being applied to the joints and tendons of your foot over a prolonged period of time. They can also be caused by traumas to the foot as well as congenital deformities. Occupations or athletic activities that place abnormal stress on your feet can also lead to the formation of bunions. Bunions have a tendency to run in families, but it?s not the bunion itself that is hereditary. It?s the the foot type which *causes* the bunion that is hereditary. Also, wearing shoes such as high heels that do not distribute your body weight evenly can lead to bunions, which explains why so many women suffer from bunions.
SymptomsBunions starts as the big toe begins to deviate, developing a firm bump on the inside edge of the foot, at the base of the big toe. Initially, at this stage the bunion may not be painful. Later as the toes deviate more the bunion can become painful, there may be redness, some swelling, or pain at or near the joint. The pain is most commonly due to two things, it can be from the pressure of the footwear on the bunion or it can be due to an arthritis like pain from the pressure inside the joint. The motion of the joint may be restricted or painful. A hammer toe of the second toe is common with bunions. Corns and calluses can develop on the bunion, the big toe and the second toe due to the alterations in pressure from the footwear. The pressure from the great toe on the other toes can also cause corns to develop on the outside of the little toe or between the toes. The change in pressure on the toe may predispose to an ingrown nail.
Physical examination typically reveals a prominence on the inside (medial) aspect of the forefoot. This represents the bony prominence associated with the great toe joint ( the medial aspect of the first metatarsal head). The great toe is deviated to the outside (laterally) and often rotated slightly. This produces uncovering of the joint at the base of the big toe (first metatarsophalangeal joint subluxation). In mild and moderate bunions, this joint may be repositioned back to a neutral position (reduced) on physical examination. With increased deformity or arthritic changes in the first MTP joint, this joint cannot be fully reduced. Patients may also have a callus at the base of their second toe under their second metatarsal head in the sole of the forefoot. Bunions are often associated with a long second toe.
Non Surgical Treatment
Somtimes observation of the bunion is all that?s needed. A periodic exam and x-ray can determine if your bunion deformity is advancing. Measures can then be taken to reduce the possibility of permanent damage to your joint. In many cases, however, some type of treatment is needed. Conservative treatments may help reduce the pain of a bunion. These options include changes in shoe-wear. Wearing the right kind of shoes is very important. Choose shoes with a large toe box and avoid narrow high heeled shoes which may aggravate the condition. Padding. Pads can be placed over the area to reduce shoe pressure. Medication. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs may help reduce inflammation and reduce pain. Injection therapy. Injection of steroid medication may be used to treat inflammation that causes pain and swelling especially if a fluid filled sac has developed about the joint. Orthotic shoe inserts. By controlling the faulty mechanical forces the foot may be stabilized so that the bunion becomes asymptomatic.
Larger bunions are commonly treated with the Lapidus Bunionectomy, which involves realigned the displaced bone at its bottom, through a bone mending/fusion procedure. It is with this technique where the the walking advances have been made int he past decade. The Lapidus Bunionectomy has become a popular surgical method since surgeons have become more comfortable with mobilizing their patients post-operatively. Though not all surgeons who perform this procedure have adopted this postoperative protocol.
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.
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