A bunion is a foot deformity where your big toe slants outward horizontally, pushing the tip of the big toe up against your little toes, and creating a characteristic sharp angle along the inside of your foot, at what?s called the first metatarsophalangeal joint-where your big toe connects to your foot. The reason for the deformity is an abnormal growth of bone, so it is not a condition that will correct itself naturally. Though bunions, or hallux valgus, as they are known in the medical community, are well-known among the general population for causing pain and discomfort, they can have a big impact on your running as well. Women?s marathon world record holder Paula Radcliffe, for example, lost several months of running because of a bunion on her foot.
There are many reasons why this deformity occurs such as hereditary factors. Footwear habits. Foot type. Biomechanical factors (pronation). Neuromuscular dysfunction. Ligament Dysfunction (laxity). The most common causative factor is inheriting a foot type from your family that is prone to bunions. Feet that are subjected to pronation also have a higher incidence of attaining HAV deformities. This is a problem that has many causes and more than one may be occurring at the same time.
Just because you have a bunion does not mean you will necessarily have pain. There are some people with very severe bunions and no pain and people with mild bunions and a lot of pain. Symptoms for a bunion may include pain on the inside of your foot at the big toe joint, swelling on the inside of your foot at the big toe joint, appearance of a "bump" on the inside edge of your foot. The big toe rolling over to one side. Redness on the inside of your foot at the big toe joint. Numbness or burning in the big toe (hallux). Decreased motion at the big toe joint. Painful bursa (fluid-filled sac) on the inside of your foot at the big toe joint. Pain while wearing shoes - especially shoes too narrow or with high heels. Joint pain during activities. Other conditions which may appear with bunions include Corns in between the big toe and second toe. Callous formation on the side or bottom of the big toe or big toe joint. Callous under the second toe joint. Pain in the second toe joint.
Your family doctor or chiropodist /podiatrist can identify a bunion simply by examining your foot. During the exam, your big toe will be moved up and down to determine if your range of motion is limited. You will be examined for signs of redness or swelling and be questioned about your history of pain. A foot x-ray can show an abnormal angle between the big toe and the foot. In some cases, arthritis may also be seen. A X-ray of your foot may help identify the cause of the bunion and rate its severity.
Non Surgical Treatment
In most cases the symptoms of bunions can be reduced or relieved without surgery. Reducing pressure on the bunion is the first step in reducing the pain associated with the condition. Wearing correctly fitting shoes is important in achieving this. A referral to a podiatrist may be made in order to assess the need for special orthotic devices, such as custom-made arch supports and shoe inserts (eg: metatarsal pad or bar). These can help to relieve tension on the base of the big toe and help prevent flat-footedness. Specific exercises and bunion pads available over-the-counter at pharmacies may also be of benefit. Anti-inflammatory medicines can help to ease pain in the short term. Steroid injections may be used to relieve severe pain. If a sufficient reduction in symptoms is not achieved by non-surgical treatment, then surgery may be recommended.
Surgery is a last option for those with advanced and painful bunions that do not respond to any other treatment. The surgical operation to correct the deformity from a bunion is called a bunionectomy, which typically involves removing bony growth of the bunion, re-positioning ligaments and tendons, and realigning the bones of the toe joint. Surgery is usually a day procedure performed with a local anaesthetic. The bones may be stabilised in their new position with screws or pins. Hardware may even include absorbable pins that are broken down by the body after a few months. You can expect a 6 - 8 week recovery period during which crutches are usually required. Surgery is often successful but sometimes the big toe moves back to its previous deviated position. Proper footwear and orthotics reduces the chances of surgical failure.