What are Bunions?
There are some physical health complications that you might not expect to come across until your golden years – or preferably, never. Bunions happen to be one of them. That said, bunions can appear at any age, regardless of your physical health.
A bunion is a foot deformity that affects millions of people around the world. Medical professionals classify the foot health complication as a form of biomechanical imbalance of the foot. Usually, it occurs where the first metatarsal bone moves out of the proper alignment position. The metatarsal bones are the long bones that exist in the feet. The first metatarsal exists behind the large toe. A common misconception with bunions is that it’s a growth that occurs on the interior section of the foot. However, while all factors might point to such an occurrence, the shifting of this bone out of alignment is what really occurs.
Anyone can get a bunion, but they are more common in women. Many women wear tight, narrow shoes that squeeze the toes together—which makes it more likely for a bunion to develop, worsen, and cause painful symptoms.
In most cases, bunion pain is relieved by wearing wider shoes with adequate toe room and using other simple treatments to reduce pressure on the big toe.
How Common are Bunions?
While the risk of getting bunions increases as one ages, research shows that close to one in four people between the ages of 18 to 70 have a bunion. For those over this age limit, close to more than three people suffer from the condition. Part of it relates to your genetics (your grandparents and parents), but females are also highly likely to suffer from the condition. Usually, women are more prone to the condition due to wearing of tight-fitting shoes. Such shoes cause the big toe to move outside the foot, thereby leading to an imbalance that affects the metatarsal bone. It is much better to go with comfortable footwear instead.
Symptoms of a Bunion
The first tell-tale sign of a bunion is the presence of a pronounced bump, that is often accompanied by pain or tenderness. Usually, the growth occurs around the big joint. According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, bunions are associated with myriad symptoms. Some of the common symptoms associated with the condition include redness inflammation, tenderness and more.
Being able to intervene early is important in the treatment and management process. The treatment process relates to the level of pain. Furthermore, consider rating the pain on a scale from one to 10. If you feel the pain surpasses the level 5, then consider investing in professional medical help. Furthermore, joint pain may occur in the advanced stages of the toe complication. The discomfort associated with bunions and the challenges in finding the ideal footwear compromises one`s lifestyle in many ways. For instance, you may be unable to find suitable shoes, or it may perhaps affect your normal gait.
The specific cause of a bunion is often relates to myriad factors. In some cases, it can be due to a combination of external and internal factors. For instance, the most common cause is wearing shoes that are not comfortable or tight fitting shoes. Try roomy footwear instead, because tight fitting shoes compromise the alignment of the metatarsal bones, and can cause the foot to become clammy. Other factors include genetics, rheumatoid arthritis, physical activity and more. More so, excessive pronation of the foot also places added pressure on the interior section of the big toe. Such an increase in shoe pressure can lead to deformation of secondary bones in the foot, thus increasing the risk of bunions.
Complications Associated With Bunions
While failing to treat bunions has no significant health complications, it is associated with further complications. For instance, the bunions can lead to secondary issues such as arthritis in the large toe. More so, the bunions might also cause the second toe to go out of alignment. Complications can also develop even if you get surgery. Some of these complications to expect include:
- Damage to the nerves in the foot – failing to address the pressure or damage to the toe area can compromise the performance of nerves in the toe.
- The need for additional surgery – you might have to go for further surgery if the complication persists after treatment.
- Stiffness in the joints of the toe – stiffness might occur due to how the surgery might alter the bone and muscle structure of the foot.
- A compromise to your natural gait –bunions might also affect the way in which you walk. The intense pain caused by the bunion makes it difficult to walk normally.
Conservative treatment for bunions can involve various approaches. For instances, the use of orthotics, pain medications, rest, cold therapy and more. That said, these treatments are mostly suitable for addressing the symptoms, but for correcting the specific deformity. If the complication persists, or when you require aesthetic correction, then surgery is the best solution.
- Orthotics – these are special regulators or splints, that help to elevate the feet at comfortable positions. Thus, the orthotics help to relieve discomfort associated with bunions, while also preventing any advancement of the complications. Orthotics are available as OTC or custom molded products.
- Foot therapy – broadly speaking, foot therapy might involve various techniques, to help restore the original functionality of the foot. For instance, the therapy might include massage, cold therapy and more.
Avoiding Surgery if You Have Bunions
Conservative treatment is suitable for controlling the symptoms associated with bunions. However, if the bone moves out of the proper position, then there is little you can do to correct the problem DIY. In this case, the best option would be to consider surgical procedures. That said, the following DIY fixes can help reduce the likelihood of having to go for surgery:
- Avoid heels – these shoe types are a leading cause of bunions among women. Wearing them not only feels bad for a short while, but it also has significant long term effects. Furthermore, the high heels can cause a basic bunion to turn serve. Besides that, another important factor is to avoid wearing shoes without socks.
- Make smart choices when shopping – did you know that your feet are plumpest in the evening? Yes, your feet will swell progressively through the course of the day. Thus, ensure that you try out new shoes or socks at the end of the day. This ensures that you get a shoe that offers a comfortable fit as you meet your day to day obligations.
- Evaluate the arch support – people who have flat feet are highly likely to get bunions. As such, using arch inserts, can be highly beneficial. Furthermore, you can consult a podiatrist to provide a custom orthotic to address the problem. While orthotics won’t necessarily cure bunions, they can improve comfort when walking, and also curtail their progression.
- Consider a bunion splint – otherwise referred to as “big toe straighteners” splints are readily available at local drugstores and amazon. That said, they are not effective for bunions when used solely. Many people have the expectation that splints are sufficient for addressing bunions. However, they shift the bunion into proper alignment, which is a temporary solution. More so, the splints also help to improve muscle and bone comfort.
- Give your feet some treatment – consider treating sore and red feet, by using ice or perhaps applying a foot massage. Furthermore, consider secondary solutions such as consuming medications such as ibuprofen which help to control issues such as swelling.
- Consult with a podiatrist – while it’s easy to try and address the problem, it’s also reasonable to visit a doctor is the problem persists. The podiatrist will provide effective therapies such as electrical stimulation. These are techniques that help to control inflammation issues, and to disrupt the cycle of pain. The doctor might also perform an X-ray test to evaluate the interior structure of the foot.
When to Go for Surgery
If after applying the basic DIY treatment options and you still experience pain, the surgery is the best option. However, bunions rarely require surgery. The surgery process might involve the removal of the bony bump or bunion that develops around the base of the large toe.
Bunions can lead to severe pain, and lead to increased risk of secondary foot complications. Research has shown that close to 24 percent of adults that fall between the age of 17 to 65 and 36% of people over 65 suffer from bunions. The goal of the surgical process is to:
- Relieve pressure that affects the performance of the foot – releasing any increased pressure on the foot will reduce pain and encourage optimal recovery
- Repair the joints in your toe – a joint that in an improper position can also lead to bunions. Thus repairing the structure of a joint can help improve the structure of the foot.
- Restore proper alignment of the foot – feet without proper alignment are likely to be exposed to intense pressure, thus leading to discomfort or pain
Types of Bunion Surgery
A podiatrist will assess the bunion for suggestion the proper kind of surgery to remedy the problem. The doctor will recommend surgery based on the symptoms of the individual`s size, shape, and structure of the bunion. The common types of bunion surgery include:
Repairing ligaments and tendons
If tight or loose soft tissue is the leading cause of the bunion, then a surgeon might perform procedures to loosen muscles around the affected area. Usually, the procedure is used as a secondary option for correcting the problem.
The surgeon makes incisions into the bone and introduces screws, pins, and plates into the apertures. These restorative materials help to align the toe and to reduce any pressure on the affected area. The procedure might sometimes be useful for removing a small section of bone.
Individuals that undergo this procedure will also undergo procedures such as soft tissue removal. Usually, the exoscectomy involves the removal of the bony bump that exists in the big toe. However, the bunion might reappear if the doctor performs this procedure solely, which means you have to combine it with other treatment options.
Tips When Choosing the Best Shoes for Bunions
Since poorly fitting footwear is the leading cause of bunions, you must invest in shoes that offer an excellent fit. Ensure that you invest in shoes that have large toe sections, wide insteps, and padded soles. More so, avoid tight shoes, or those that have a pointed and narrow structure. The feet tend to increase in size as you move throughout the day. Most importantly, avoid wearing high-heels, mainly if you are prone to getting bunions. Consider the following tips when investing in shoes:
- Avoid investing in shoes based on the size labeling inside the shoe. The shoe sizes are different among shoe brands and styles. Choose a shoe relating to how it feels on your foot.
- Try and measure your feet regularly. Some people even have one longer foot than the other. Thus, you have to consider shoes that fit the longest foot.
- Choose a shoe at the end of the day, when your feet are biggest. This way, you invest in a comfortable shoe for all-day purposes.
- Stand and move around during the fitting process. Ensure that the shoe offers ample space for the longest toe at the end of the shoe.
- Make sure of the ball of the foot is comfortable at the widest section of the shoe. This is especially true for people who engage in athletics.
- Never wear shoes that are not comfortable, regardless of the style or class it displays. You might end up getting more than just a bunion.
Bunions are perhaps the most common foot health complication that affects people all around the world. The condition occurs as a result of excessive pressure on the toe, which can make walking or daily activities difficult. The common symptoms of bunions include pain, discomfort, tenderness, and more. More so, failing to address bunions can lead to secondary foot health complications that you should consider, such as the need for surgery. Managing bunions effectively is simple, and it usually starts by wearing the appropriate footwear.