How many times you've thought it's about time to do something about that painful, large and unsightly bump protruding out of the outside of your big toe joint?
24 December 2018| Last updated on 14 January 2019
World-widely known as `bunion` (or `hallux valgus` as doctors prefer to name), this bump is a deformity of the joint between the foot and the big toe (metatarsophalangeal joint) and in which the joint is pushed outward and away from the foot, causing the big toe itself to point inward toward the other toes of the foot.
Daily, we walk thousands of steps and with years of such repetitive load on our feet, the joint - of some of us - gradually moves out of its proper position causing bending of the overlying skin of the foot with subsequent pain, swelling and tenderness. With also the joint itself becoming very stiff and sore, it is not so hard to imagine why bunions can cause such devastating pain.
With no deformity of the forefoot occurring more frequently than bunions, it represents not only an aesthetic concern, but also a real problem that can affect anyone between 18 – 60 years of age. There are certain predisposing factors such as genetics, arthritis, flat feet and, saving the worst for last, ill-fitting shoes. The later makes women much more commonly affected than men, because they are in the habit of frequently wearing narrow, high-heeled shoes while having more flexible soft tissues.
The signs and symptoms of a bunion
As a matter of fact, bunions take years to develop and most people do not notice any symptoms until the problem becomes severe, with pain, redness, swelling as well as difficulty in walking being the hallmark of people`s presenting complaints, topped even by `I can`t even wear shoes anymore!`
Moving on with our detailing of such common and `agonizing-for-some` problem, a question presents itself here; should I do something about it? Indeed! … it`s important not to neglect seeking treatment and hoping for the best that it would just go away!. A bunion may throw-off the mechanics of your normal gait pattern and may predispose you for other foot problems such as nerve impingement, hammertoes and plantar fasciitis just to name a few. It happens commonly that patients present with a foot problem that is indirectly related to their existing bunion, and this may warrant treatment of the bunion in conjunction with the presenting foot problem to achieve radical recovery and reduce possibility of recurrence.
How to get rid of bunions
How to get rid of this “enemy” of the foot? Here`s another common question that needs a decisive answer. Regretfully true, a bunion is a structural deformity due to shifting of bones, therefore no conservative treatment can radically eliminate it. To relieve symptoms and reduce possibility of progression, doctors usually turn to orthotic splints, toe spacers, and bunion cushions to encourage proper toe alignment and relieve pain, swelling and discomfort. Needless to say, wearing proper-fitting and comfortable shoes with less than 2 inch heels becomes a necessity.
If, however, pain becomes chronic and intense to the extent that it`s interfering with everyday`s tasks and proper walking, then surgery should be considered as a radical solution for the ongoing agony. There are several bunion surgery options and a trusted orthopedic surgeon who specializes in foot & ankle surgery will be able to advise upon the ideal choice for you based upon the size and severity of your bunion, mobility of the surrounding joints, the coexistence of another problem and the primary cause of the bunion. The good news here is that, at general, most people will be recovering fast, usually within few weeks—after that, you’ll be walking around freely with no pain or pressure… At last!
Dr. Wail Ahmad, MD
Foot & Ankle Expert