What are bunions?

Bunions or ‘hallux abducto valgus is an unnatural bony protrusion at the base of the big toe that can cause a deformity in the joint. As the bunions develops it can cause a misalignment in the joint of the big toe, at its base where it connects to the foot. This usually will cause the big toe to deviate to the lateral side of the foot toward the other toes. Bunions may cause pain, redness and swelling in the affected joint.

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Women seem to be at a greater risk from developing bunions, years of wearing high heel pointy shoes can slowly cause the bones in the foot to form an unnatural shape.  Some studies indicate that women are 10 times more likely to develop bunions than men.

Congenital defects, rheumatoid arthritis and foot trauma have also been known to cause or lead the foot to develop bunions.

What causes bunions?

 In most cases bunions can develop after years of wearing shoes that constrict the toes together or transfer the body weight to the toes, high heeled shoes.  With time and pressure the big toe may be forced out of its natural straight position, causing it to point toward the other toes.

Hereditary and genetic issues that may not be directly responsible for bunions but can allow them to develop are:  loose tendons or ligaments, flat footedness, abnormal bone structure and some neurological disorders.

Trauma to the foot or joint can also allow the toe to deviate from it natural position.  In cases where the second toe has been removed bunions have been known to develop.

Bunion Symptoms

Pain when walking, joint pain or redness, swelling of the joint  and misalignment of the big toe usually with a bony bony protrusion: are indications that you may have a developing bunion.  

A podiatrist  can diagnose bunions through physical examinations, x-rays and medical history.  He or she may use physical examination of the toe and joint to explore the range motion and flexibility.  X-rays are usually used to indicate or rule out deformities of the bone and joint tissues.  Your physician may take synovial fluid from the affected joint to test for other disorders(gout or arthritis) or to rule out bunions.

Treatment for Bunions

Treatment for bunions vary depending on the severity of the deformation.  Often treatment is directed to offering symptomatic relief, (relief from the pain and symptoms of bunions).

Usually in mild cases, changing to a more open and softer style of foot wear that dispersed the body weight can provide relief immediately.  

Orthopedic pads and splints are available without prescriptions that can be  worn at night to help corrected deviated alignment problems.

Home remedies that include massaging the affected joint with olive oil or a turmeric rub at least 10 minutes a day have proven successful in some cases.  This can act to improve circulation in the blood stream and the synovial fluid allowing the break up of calcium deposits that can cause joint deformities.  

Rest and ice therapies are also recommended to easy bunion symptoms.

With more severe cases surgical procedures may be necessary to remove the bony enlargement and correct alignment of the big toe.  Your podiatrist or physician can study x-rays and imaging of the joint to determine the best surgical path for correcting each individual case.  Recovery can take 6-8 weeks and will most likely require the use of crutches to maintain mobility.