A bunion is a bony deformity that forms at the base of the big toe. It is a progressive abnormality that happens slowly over time and can be symptomatic and asymptomatic. Bunions are also known as the Latin term Hallux Valgus (hallux meaning big toe, valgus translates to moving away from the midline). Over time the deformity can lead to difficulty in finding footwear that feels comfortable and limit daily activity. The look of the bunion can also become quite distressing to some patients.
The cause of a bunion is quite complex as usually there are multiple factors that contribute to the development. It is thought that bunions are hereditary as foot types can be inherited from family members which can increase certain risk factors of bunions. Usually, it takes many years of abnormal pressure through the big toe joint for a bunion to develop. People who work in industries that require long hours of standing or who wear a certain type of shoes such as heels may develop symptoms at a faster rate due to the increased pressure through the big toe.
Conservative treatment approaches are used to manage the patient’s symptoms of pain and deviation.
- Footwear – a change in footwear can increase the control through your ankle to reduce the overload of pressure through the big toe joint. Wearing shoes with a wider toe box can decrease skin irritation where the deformity is.
- Padding – techniques to reduce friction felt either on the outside of the big toe joint or the inside, if the big toe has deviated into the second toe.
- Orthotics – orthotics can redistribute pressure evenly throughout the foot, slowing down the rate of deviation caused by a bunion and the pain associated with it.
Surgery is considered the last resort for a bunion deformity, usually the above conservative treatment approaches can reduce pain and increase mobility, therefore increasing comfort during activity.
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