A bunion is a deviation and inflammation of joint where the big toe connects to the 1st metatarsal, also known as the 1st MTP. The capsule of the joint is displaced, thickened and enlarged, and the cartilage of the joint is damaged. There are three degrees of bunions: mild, moderate and severe. It is important to know that bunions are not hereditary, although the tendency to overpronate, which is one of the main causes of bunions, has a hereditary component. Patients complain of pain in the joint and have a big toe that points away from the midline of the body. Often, they are only able to wear very wide shoes.
Women tend to suffer from bunions more often than men, probably because of the shoes they wear. But besides shoes, standing on the feet for long periods of time can also make symptoms of a bunion worse. Along with the bump, these bunion symptoms include pain or soreness, swelling, redness around the joint, a burning sensation or sometimes numbness. The big toe may develop calluses or not be able to move as well as it once did. Sores between the toes and ingrown toenails may also occur because of a bunion.
SymptomsPatients with bunions will often display pain over the prominent bump on the inside of their forefoot (the medial eminence?). However, they may also have pain under the ball of the foot (under the area near the base of the second toe). Symptoms can vary in severity from none at all to severe discomfort aggravated by standing and walking. There is no direct correlation between the size of the bunion and the patient?s symptoms. Some patients with severe bunion deformities have minimal symptoms, while patients with mild bunion deformities may have significant symptoms. Symptoms are often exacerbated by restrictive shoe wear, particularly shoes with a narrow toe box or an uncomfortable, stiff, restraining upper.
Although bunions are usually obvious from the pain and unusual shape of the toe, further investigation is often advisable. Your doctor will usually send you for X-rays to determine the extent of the deformity. Blood tests may be advised to see if some type of arthritis could be causing the pain. Based on this evaluation, your doctor can determine whether you need orthopaedic shoes, medication, surgery or other treatment.
Non Surgical Treatment
Pain is the main reason that you seek treatment for bunion. Analgesics may help. Inflammation it best eased via ice therapy and techniques or exercises that deload the inflammed structures. Anti-inflammatory medications may help. Your physiotherapist will use an array of treatment tools to reduce your pain and inflammation. These include ice, electrotherapy, acupuncture, deloading taping techniques, soft tissue massage and orthotics to off-load the bunion. As your pain and inflammation settles, your physiotherapist will turn their attention to restoring your normal toe and foot joint range of motion and muscle length. Treatment may include joint mobilisation and alignment techniques, massage, muscle and joint stretches, taping, a bunion splint or orthotic. Your physiotherapist is an expert in the techniques that will work best for you. Your foot posture muscles are vital to correct the biomechanics that causing your bunion to deteriorate. Your physiotherapist will assess your foot posture muscles and prescribe the best exercises for you specific to your needs. During this stage of your rehabilitation is aimed at returning you to your desired activities. Everyone has different demands for their feet that will determine what specific treatment goals you need to achieve. For some it be simply to walk around the block. Others may wish to run a marathon or return to a labour-intensive activity. Your physiotherapist will tailor your rehabilitation to help you achieve your own functional goals. Bunions will deform further with no attention. Plus, the bunion pain associated does have a tendency to return. The main reason is biomechanical. In addition to your muscle control, your physiotherapist will assess your foot biomechanics and may recommend either a temporary off-the shelf orthotic or refer you to a podiatrist for custom made orthotics. You should avoid wearing high heel shoes and shoes with tight or angular toe boxes. Your physiotherapist will guide you.
Your podiatrist can refer you to a podiatric surgeon who will evaluate the extent of the deformity. A podiatric surgeon can remove the bunion and realign the toe joint in an operation generally referred to as a bunionectomy. However, there are actually around 130 different operations that fall under this title, so don?t presume you?ll need the same type of surgery as that friend of a friend who couldn?t walk for 3 months.