Bunions (hallux valgus) are among the most common and vexing foot conditions. They are bony, fibrous bumps along the side of the big toe, but this simple description says nothing about the discomfort they cause. Bunions appear when the big toe is forced, again and again, out of its natural position. This causes the metatarsal joint below the toe to stick out and become irritated. It may take decades for a bunion to finally start to cause problems, for they may start in the teenaged years when girls start to wear high heels and not become truly problematic until they are in their 30s. It’s not surprising that three times as many women as men suffer from bunions.
The distressed joint of the big toe causes the toe to angle in towards the other toes. Sometimes this is severe enough for the big toe to cross the toe beside it. This deformity may require bunion surgery to treat.
Other symptoms are:
Thick skin developing over the bump.
Fluid collecting beneath the bump.
A stiff, painful foot.
Symptoms that worsen over time if they’re not treated.
Treatment of Bunions
The best bunion treatment is prophylactic, which means the goal is to not develop them in the first place. People should wear shoes that fit well and have roomy toe boxes that allow the toes to rest in their normal position. Women who simply can’t do without high heels should wear comfortable shoes to an event then slip on the heels just before the event begins. When it’s time to go home, take the heels off, and put on the sensible shoes.
Another way to prevent bunions is to perform exercises that keep the feet, ankles and legs in good condition. These include single-leg stands and single-leg calf raises.
If the condition has progressed, the pain, swelling and redness can be eased by reducing pressure on the big toe. The patient can place a foam rubber pad between the big toe and the first toe before they go to bed and wear a ring-shaped pad around and over the bunion during the day. They can put inserts in their shoes to support the arch of the foot. This takes pressure off of the bunion. Sometimes, the podiatrist can have inserts custom-made for the patient.
How to Get Rid of a Bunion
A person who can’t get rid of or ease the pain of a bunion may resort to seeing a podiatrist, or a doctor who specializes in problems of the foot. They may recommend surgery, but surgery is a last resort and should be considered if the bunion makes it hard to walk or disrupts the quality of life in other ways. During bunion surgery, the overgrown area of the metatarsal bone that connects to the big toe is cut away or filed down, and tendons that were attached to the bottom of the metatarsal and the toe bones are severed. This allows the toes to straighten out. The surgery is most often an outpatient procedure, and the surgical wound nearly always heals without complications in about six weeks.