Have you recently (or not so recently) noticed a bump forming on the side of your foot where your big toe starts? Does it now hurt to walk or is the bump red and painful to touch? You could have the start of a bunion, a common (but sometimes painful) issue that effects over a quarter of the Australian population (over a third of the population if you are 65 or older).
What do bunions look and feel like?
First off, let’s be clear on what a bunion and what it looks & feels like so you can be sure if you have this common ailment. Symptoms of bunions tend to increase over time as the condition worsens, typical symptoms include:
- Deformity of the big toe joint
- Growth of a bony lump at the side of the big toe joint
- Pain, redness and tissue swelling over the big toe joint, with thickening of overlying skin
- Pain when walking (particularly during the “push off” phase)
People with advanced bunions can sometimes be so pronounced that the big toe overlaps or underlays the second toe. Advanced cases like these can be very painful and debilitating, which is why it is very important to seek professional guidance now if you look to have the early stages of a bunion forming. Treatments can be implemented in the early stages to slow down the progression of a bunion.
How did I get a bunion?
Some people are more susceptible to bunions than others due to the structure of the bones in their feet. This has been demonstrated consistently over time with some families having a problem with bunions, while other families don’t. In other words, your genetics play an important role in whether you will get a bunion… however that isn’t the only reason and there are things you can do (i.e. your behaviour and habits) to lessen the chances of getting a bunion.
Fun police warning: wearing shoes such as high heels and / or pointed toe shoes will increase your chances of getting a bunion, particularly if you wear them all day, every day.
Other factors that are known to increase the risk of bunions include:
- Certain arthritic conditions and ligament disorders
- Age (the incidence of bunions increases with age)
- Being flat footed with feet that roll inwards
- Past injury (trauma) to the foot
I am now sure I have a bunion forming, what can I do to slow and stop its growth?
The most important thing to do when treating a bunion is to reduce the pressure that has been placed on the bunion that created it in the first place. There’s not much you can do about changing your genetics but certainly addressing the underlying reason you have the bunion (poorly fitted footwear, flexible flat foot) can have a positive impact in slowing down the growth of your bunion. Wearing properly fitted and appropriate footwear is a must.
From there, a detailed biomechanical assessment of your foot and walking style would be conducted to understand whether a need for special orthotic devices is required, such as custom-made arch supports or shoe inserts. These devices can help to relieve tension on the big toe and help prevent flat footedness. It will also be important to prescribe an exercise program to strengthen your foot muscles for correct form and function to further assist in bringing the toe joint back into alignment.
In severe cases, if a sufficient reduction in symptoms is not achieved by non-surgical treatment, then surgery may be recommended by your Podiatrist.
The most important thing you can do now to stop your bunions getting worse, and avoid the possibility of surgery, is to wear properly fitted shoes as much as possible. You may not look as good when going to work, or hitting the town, but it will be worth it in the long run. If you think you have a bunion forming and would like to get more detail on the treatment options discussed here, please give our Reception a call on (03) 9457 2336. It is important to get expert advice as early as possible when treating bunions, so don’t hesitate to give us a call if you have any concerns.