Many things happen to our feet as we age. Some are caused by the stress we put on them with high-impact activities, restrictive shoes, and years of standing and walking. Other problems that develop over time are the result of simple genetics. Bunions are likely caused by a combination of the two. You might be prone to them because they run in your family, but they can progress to a painful problem more quickly because of the way you treat your feet.
Regardless of why you have bunions, you should know that the sooner you see a podiatrist for help, the less likely it is that you will one day need invasive surgery to be able to fit into your footwear. At Forward Foot & Ankle Center, we are committed to gentle interventions to deal with bunions and keep you active and moving forward.
What Is a Bunion?
Many people are under the misconception that a bunion is a growth resulting from friction on the outside of your big toe. What a bunion actually is, however, is a misalignment between the top foot bone and the bottom big toe bone. When the metatarsal bone in the foot becomes misaligned and points out, the first phalanges bone in the toe is forced inward, creating a bulge at the base of the big toe. At first, you might not even notice that you have a bump on the side of one or both feet, but as it begins to rub on the sides of your shoes, you might develop a blister that draws attention to the deformity. As the misalignment becomes more pronounced, your big toe might even cross over the next toe, creating an almost 90-degree angle. Bunions can cause generalized pain in the ball of your foot, corns or calluses at the base of your big toe, and numbness in the affected toe. They can also prevent you from being able to wear regular shoes and do the physical activities you love.
Management of Bunion Pain and Complications
The only way to get rid of a bunion deformity permanently is with invasive surgery. The most common procedure involves shaving off the part of the bone that protrudes out. This does not correct the misalignment, but it does return the foot to close to its normal shape.
However, we see this as a last resort. Instead, we prefer to start early with strategies that relieve pain and allow for mobility. In our office, we will try the following interventions before recommending surgery:
- Pads and taping. If your bunion is causing painful rubbing against your shoe, we can provide pads to cushion the area and prevent blisters. We can also teach you how to use medical tape to keep the toe in the correct position, particularly when you are exercising.
- Footwear recommendations. We will help you find shoes with a wide toe box to accommodate your bunion and the padding or orthotics we may prescribe to prevent aggravation. Orthopedic, open-toed shoes can also be a solution in some situations.
- Orthotics. Custom-made shoe inserts can help control the alignment of your entire foot and correct issues such as overpronation that can make a bunion worse. We might place a spacer between your big toe and the next to help keep the toe straight. A splint that you wear to bed might also help relieve pain and pressure.
- Non-invasive therapies. Massage, physical therapy, ultrasound therapy, and injection therapy can all relieve tension and reduce pain and inflammation. Certain exercises might be helpful to improve surrounding muscle strength and reduce pressure on the toe joint.
- Alternative activities. At Forward Foot & Ankle Center, we are committed to promoting an active lifestyle. If a bunion is preventing you from doing an activity you love, such as running, dancing, or high-impact exercise, we can help you find a way to stay fit and active without putting additional pressure on your big toe joint.
When these treatments are no longer effective, and you want to learn more about your surgical options, we will refer you to a skilled orthopedic surgeon for a consultation.
Bunions Increase Your Risk of Developing Hammertoes
People with bunions often also develop hammertoes. While bunions are caused by bone misalignment in the big toe, hammertoes are a result of weak muscles and tight tendons in the other four toes. Mallet toes and claw toes are related conditions. We offer effective, in-office solutions for these painful conditions.
When to See a Podiatrist About Your Bunions
As soon as you notice a bump beginning to form on the side of one or both big toes, it's a good idea to schedule an appointment in our Livermore office for a baseline evaluation. Taking proactive steps, such as changing your footwear, learning foot exercises and stretches, wearing an orthotic, and altering high-impact activities, could help slow down the deterioration of the big toe joint and allow you to continue your fitness routine.
If you choose not to seek early intervention, it is important that you see a podiatrist if you notice the following symptoms:
- Difficulty walking
- Numbness or paralysis of the big toe
- Severe inflammation and redness in the toe joint
- Open blisters on the side of the toe, especially if you have diabetes
It is never too late to get relief from the complications caused by bunions. When you start at Forward Foot & Ankle Center, you can be sure that we will try the most conservative measures first. We are committed to helping you move forward with your work and recreation.
Bunion Treatment and Pain Relief in the East Bay
If you have a bunion, don't hesitate to reach out to us with questions. We serve the entire East Bay area, including Pleasanton, Danville, San Ramon, Dublin, Tracy, and Stockton. Call us at (925) 532-0099 or fill out our contact form, and we will be in touch to discuss your options for effective treatment.