Bunions (sometimes referred to as Hallux abducto valgus) are enlargements of the inner portion of the metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint at the base of your big toe. More commonly, they are described as a bump on the side of the big toe. The foot bunion is the result of changes that occur in the framework of the bones at the front of your foot. Instead of pointing straight ahead, your big toe begins to lean into your second toe, throwing the bones out of alignment. Bunions are progressive, meaning you will not just wake up one day and find a visible bump (unless it was caused by a bug bite or something of that nature). Bunions are generally attributed to genetics and improper footwear. It may take years for a bunion to fully develop and begin to show symptoms. Some people may never experience symptoms at all. Bunions may begin to form during one?s teenage years, but they usually occur in people aged 20-30. Women are three times more likely than men to have bunions.
Bunions are most widely considered to be due to an imbalance in the forces that is exerted across the joint during walking. The resulting abnormal motion and pressure over the joint, over many years (combined with poor fitting footwear) leads to instability in the joint causing hallux valgus and bunions. Bunions are really only a symptom of faulty foot mechanics and are usually caused by a combination of the way we walk, the foot we inherit and inappropriate footwear use.
Many people do not experience symptoms in the early stages of bunion formation. Symptoms are often most noticeable when the bunion gets worse and with certain types of footwear. These include shoes that crowd the toes and/or high-heeled shoes. When symptoms do occur, they may include physical discomfort or pain. A burning feeling. Redness and swelling. Possible numbness. Difficulty walking.
Diagnosis begins with a careful history and physical examination by your doctor. This will usually include a discussion about shoe wear and the importance of shoes in the development and treatment of the condition. X-rays will probably be suggested. This allows your doctor to measure several important angles made by the bones of the feet to help determine the appropriate treatment.
Non Surgical Treatment
Patients who suffer from bunions are usually referred to a surgeon. Unfortunately, surgery often makes the problem worse. Surgeons will use x-ray technology as a diagnostic tool, which does not always properly diagnose the pain source. Another problem with this approach is that it does not do anything to strengthen the weakened ligament in the foot and, thus, does not alleviate the chronic pain that people with this condition experience. Another standard practice of modern medicine is to use steroids or to prescribe anti-inflammatory medications. However, in the long run, these treatments do more damage than good. Cortisone shots and anti-inflammatory drugs have been shown to produce short-term pain benefit, but both result in long-term loss of function and even more chronic pain by actually inhibiting the healing process of soft tissues and accelerating cartilage degeneration. Plus, long-term use of these drugs can lead to other sources of chronic pain, allergies and leaky gut syndrome.
Bunion surgery is occasionally required when the bunion deformity is too advanced for conservative treatment to work. Your surgeon will usually cut an angular section from the bone to correct the alignment. In some cases, multiple toes may need to be straighten.