A foot bunion is a common cause of foot pain caused by deformity of one of the toe bones. They most commonly affect the big toe, known as hallux abducto valgus, but can also affect the little toe, known as a bunionette. The classic presentation is a large bump on the outer side of the big toe that is red, swollen and painful caused by the toe deviating across towards the second toe. Left untreated, the condition usually gets gradually worse, so it is important to get treatment early on else you may end up needing bunion surgery.
Bunions are not inherited, but do tend to run in families. What is inherited is the poor or faulty foot type, that mechanically can lead to the instability around the joint that will eventually lead to bunions, how soon, how quickly and how bad they are or become is assumed to be very dependant on the footwear. A number of other factors are known to play a role in the cause of bunions and hallux valgus. Bunions can follow foot injuries and develop in those with neuromuscular problems. Those with flat feet or pronated feet appear to be more prone to the instability about the joint and have a higher incidence of bunions. Some activities (eg ballet dancing) puts added pressure on the joint and may increase the chance of bunions developing.
Bunions or hallux valgus tend to give pain predominantly from the metatarsal head on the inner border of the foot. The bunion tends to be painful mainly when in enclosed shoes and so is often more symptomatic in winter. As the front part of the foot splays and the great toe moves across towards the 2nd toe a bunion can also produce pain from the 2nd toe itself. The pain which a bunion produces on the 2nd toe is either due to direct rubbing between the great toe and the 2nd toe, a hammer toe type deformity produced due to crowding of the 2nd toe by the bunion and the 3rd toe.The hammer toe will either be painful from its top aspect where it rubs directly on shoe wear or its under surface in the area of the 2nd metatarsal head. This is made prominent and pushed to the sole of the foot by the 2nd toe rising upwards and driving the metatarsal head downwards.
A doctor can very often diagnose a bunion by looking at it. A foot x-ray can show an abnormal angle between the big toe and the foot. In some cases, arthritis may also be seen.
Non Surgical Treatment
Wide toe box, bunion pads, orthotics, or a combination. Mild discomfort may lessen by wearing a shoe with a wide toe box or with stretchable material. If not, bunion pads purchased in most pharmacies can shield the painful area. Orthotics can also be prescribed to redistribute and relieve pressure from the affected articulation. If conservative therapy fails, surgery aimed at correcting abnormal bony alignments and restoring joint mobility should be considered. If the patient is unwilling to wear large, wider shoes to accommodate the bunion because they are unattractive, surgery can be considered; however, patients should be told that orthotic devices should be worn after surgery to reduce the risk of recurrence. For bursitis, bursal aspiration and injection of a corticosteroid are indicated. For osteoarthritic synovitis, oral NSAIDs or an intra-articular injection of a corticosteroid/anesthetic solution reduces symptoms. For hallux limitus or hallux rigidus, treatment aims to preserve joint mobility by using passive stretching exercises, which occasionally require injection of a local anesthetic to relieve muscle spasm. Sometimes surgical release of contractures is necessary.
Bunion surgery generally involves repositioning the maligned bones with a bone cut (osteotomy) and/or bone mending procedure (fusion). As such, the time it takes for bones to set or mend in the corrected position generally takes six weeks. Smokers and those in poor medical health may take longer to mend the bone. The biology of bone healing is about six weeks, that time frame can't be made quicker. What can be changed is the disability that one experiences while the bone is mending.