What Causes Bunion Pain?Overview
When the big toe is misaligned, it creates an unnatural bump on the inside of the forefoot (see image below). In addition to being unsightly, the lump or bunion can cause pain and make buying shoes difficult. Some people are born predisposed to bunions. But most people acquire them over time from ill-fitting footwear that squeezes the big toe inward toward the other toes. About four out of five bunion pain patients are female, a near perfect fit for the bad shoe theory. The good news, Bunions can be corrected, often with better-fitting shoes and custom orthotics. There are also some cases that cause severe bunion pain and do not respond to conservative treatment. For those patients, bunion surgery called bunionectomy may be necessary.
Bunions tend to run in families, but that does not mean that if you have a bunion, your children will inevitably have one too. The connection may be that bunions are a bit commoner in people with unusually flexible joints, and this can be hereditary. They are also commoner in women than in men. Bunions do occur in cultures in which shoes are not worn, but much less commonly. Shoes which squeeze the big toe or do not fit properly, or have an excessively high heel, may worsen the deformity, particularly in people who are at higher risk anyway.
A bony bump along the edge of the foot, at the base of the big toe (adjacent to the ball of the foot) Redness and some swelling at or near the big toe joint. Deep dull pain in the big toe joint. Dull achy pain in the big toe joint after walking or a sharp pain while walking. The big toe is overlapping the second toe, resulting in redness, calluses, or other irritations such as corns.
The doctor considers a bunion as a possible diagnosis when noting the symptoms described above. The anatomy of the foot, including joint and foot function, is assessed during the examination. Radiographs (X-ray films) of the foot can be helpful to determine the integrity of the joints of the foot and to screen for underlying conditions, such as arthritis or gout. X-ray films are an excellent method of calculating the alignment of the toes when taken in a standing position.
Non Surgical Treatment
Padding with a number of different materials (eg felt) to reduce pressure on the painful prominence of the bunion. Physical therapy can be used to help with the symptoms and improve the range of motion (this is particularly helpful if the pain is coming from inside the joint, rather than from shoe pressure). Manipulation of the joint can be used to help with this (manipulation will never correct the alignment of the joint). Any corns and calluses that are causing symptoms should be treated. The correct fitting of footwear is essential for anyone who is serious about doing something about their bunions and hallux valgus. It may be possible to have your shoes stretched over the area of the bunion to also relieve pressure. Foot orthotics may be useful in helping with the instability about the joint. They may be more helpful if there are other symptoms in the foot as well, as their use in "treating" bunions is controversial. They may play a role in slowing progression and in the prevention of bunions developing again after surgical correction. Exercises can be important in maintaining the mobility of the joint in those with bunions, this is especially important for the arthritic type pains that may be originating from inside the joint and for the prevention of these painful symptoms in the future.
If non-surgical treatments have failed to relieve your bunion pain, or when the pain is interfering with your daily activities, contact the Dallas bunion surgery specialists at North Texas Foot & Ankle to discuss surgical options. There are a several ways to perform bunion surgery. The best procedure for one person is not necessarily the best for another. Some procedures allow you to walk much sooner, reducing the need for crutches. Depending on your foot type, the procedure can have a greater risk for return of the bunion deformity. Other procedures may require you to be on crutches for a few weeks - but could offer a better result in the long-term. Learn more about the different types of bunion surgery.
To help prevent bunions, select your style and size of shoes wisely. Choose shoes with a wide toe area and a half-inch of space between the tip of your longest toe and the end of the shoe. Shoes also should conform to the shape of your feet without causing too much pressure.