Bunions are as annoying as they are common. Many people have big toes that lean toward their other toes. After years of walking, the base of the big toe can protrude and become enlarged, thereby creating a bunion. Those with a small bunion will likely experience moderate pain from physical activity like hiking or running. But those with severe bunions will have trouble walking at all. Bunions are common, affecting nearly a quarter of all people at some point in their lives. And because tight-fitting shoes often inflame bunions, women are 10 times more likely to have a bunion than men. The good news is that, if treated quickly and correctly, the pain of a bunion can diminish significantly.
How Do I Know If I Have a Bunion?
A bunion first appears as a bump at the base of your big toe; in its early stages, it may be hard to spot. If untreated, the symptoms of a bunion will steadily progress, causing swelling of the joint, corns and calluses, stiffness, overlapping toes, and moderate to severe pain.
What Causes a Bunion?
There are two leading causes of bunions: genetics and injuries.
Genetics are the leading cause of bunions, especially with women. For most people, it is normal for their big toe to point slightly toward their second toe. But individuals with a genetic disposition for bunions will notice that their big toe often points more inward. If people in your family have bunions, this certainly does not mean you will automatically have them, but, like many medical conditions, your family’s health should be taken into careful consideration regarding your well being. If people in your family do have bunions, make sure you examine your big toe often and try to catch a bunion before it becomes too severe.
If you severely injure your foot and your foot does not heal correctly, a bunion can form as a result. Bunions are also likely to develop on feet that are restrained for an extended period. Many believe that wearing high heels or tight-fitting shoes on a regular basis can cause bunions. This is incorrect. HIgh heels don’t cause bunions, but they do make existing bunions worse. So if you have a family history of bunions, or have suffered a foot injury, it’s best to opt for comfortable shoes over stylish ones.
How Are Bunions Treated?
If not properly treated, a bunion will remain on your toe forever. It’s important to identify bunions as quickly as you can before they progress and cause pain. Depending on the severity of the bunion, you can choose to treat it naturally or medically.
Natural remedies for bunions can be useful for relieving the bunion symptoms. You should consider these treatments as soon as a bunion is spotted.
- Wear wider shoes. This will drastically reduce the pain and swelling of a bunion.
- Use shoe inserts. Bunion pads and inserts can help take the pressure off certain points on your feet to reduce pain.
- Do foot exercises. Toe/foot stretching, contracting, curling, walking on sand and other bunion exercises can strengthen the muscles in your foot and increase flexibility to reduce pain.
- Use ice. Ice will reduce the swelling and temporarily relieve your pain.
- Apply peppermint oil. Peppermint oil is an anti-inflammatory, essential oil that is commonly used for sports-related injuries. Applying a small amount to a bunion will help relieve pain.
If your bunion is severe to the point where you’re having trouble walking, medical care may be necessary. Bunion surgery is the most common form of medical intervention for bunions, but it’s important to know when it’s time to get bunion surgery. You should consider surgery if pain prevents you from completing everyday activities, you cannot walk more than three blocks without severe pain, or your big toe stays swollen all the time.
If you think surgery is necessary, your doctor will take X-rays and run various tests to make sure you’re fit for surgery. Bunion surgery only takes a few hours, but after the surgery, you won’t be able to put any weight on your feet at all for some time.
There are three types of bunion surgery, all performed under full anesthesia. Which surgery you undergo will depend on the severity of your condition.
- Osteotomy – The big toe joint is cut, and the toe is realigned.
- Exostectomy – The bunion (protruding bone) is removed, but no realignment is done.
- Arthrodesis – The damaged joint is replaced with screws or metal plates to correct the misalignment.
Recovery from bunion surgery can take one to eight weeks. Again, it is important to plan your surgery accordingly, knowing that you will not be able to walk for quite some time after. After the eight week recovery time, your doctor may advise you to not engage in physical activity for another six months. At Countryside Orthopaedics, we’re dedicated to providing the best, most comprehensive care. If you think you’re suffering from bunions, do not endure the pain and wait for the ailment to go away. Instead, contact our office and schedule an appointment today.