The path of life always has its bumps along the way, but we try to keep most of them metaphorical. Actual physical bumps are usually not good (unless, perhaps, we’re talking about a baby bump). When those bumps form alongside the base of the big toe, they’re never good. What can be done about a bunion that is causing pain and trouble in your life? First, let’s discuss how they come to be.
A Bump in the Road
While a bunion is sometimes referred to as a bumpy “growth,” nothing has actually grown along the big toe joint (known medically as the metatarsophalangeal joint). Rather, the bone or tissue at the joint has shifted out of place, causing the bump while often shifting the big toe inward toward the smaller toes. There is a similar yet less common condition that can happen at the base of the little toe, known as a “bunionette” or “tailor’s bunion.”
A bunion forms when something affects the stability of the joints and tendons in the foot, creating an imbalance. This often takes years of abnormal movement and force.
Having an abnormal foot structure is a considerable cause of bunion development. If they run in your family, odds are you are at greater risk of developing them as well. It’s not the bunion itself you inherit, but the foot shape that makes one more likely. Additional risk factors include past foot trauma and neuromuscular disorders.
Then there’s the elephant in the room; the one wearing heels. There is debate over whether wearing ill fitting shoes, that place too much pressure on the front of the foot can directly cause bunions. What is indisputable, however, is that they contribute to the development of a bunion that already had potential. This may explain why bunions tend to be more common in women.
Managing the Terrain
The worst thing that can be done for bunions is nothing. They tend to become progressively worse if they are ignored. Pain and swelling can become worse, movement of the big toe can become reduced, and irritation can happen as the big toe begins to rub against or even overlap the other toes.
However, taking action doesn’t always mean having surgery to remove the growth. In many cases, especially early on, more conservative measures can be taken to deal with the discomfort of bunions and help prevent them from becoming worse.
Changes in shoes can naturally make a huge difference in one’s comfort, but additional measures such as custom orthotics and padding/splinting of the big toe can further reduce stress on the joint. Ice therapy and pain-relieving medications at home can also be helpful, as can physical therapy.
In some cases, surgery might be the best option for reducing pain and maintaining proper mobility. A number of different forms of bunion surgery exist, and we will fully discuss all potential procedures and options with you, should it be necessary.
Don’t let bunions impeded your path through life. Dr. Timothy Barry and the staff at Family Foot & Ankle Care of Jasper are here to tailor the best treatments to your specific case. Call us at (812) 481-7200 to take the first steps toward healthier, happier feet.