Lets Talk Bunions

What are Bunions?

A common misconception most people have is that a ‘Bunion’ is a growth on the big toe, but in reality, a bunion is just one sign of a complex underlying structural deformity that can result in pain.

Medically, bunions are known as ‘Hallux Abducto Valgus’, which simply means that the big toe (hallux) moves towards the second toe resulting in somewhat of a dislocation of the big toe – giving the ‘bony bump’ appearance. This causes the foot to become broader, as well as reducing the function of the big toe joint. Ultimately, this leads to discomfort and early degenerative changes (arthritis) in the joint.

Bunion xray: angle change of bones

Signs and symptoms

Besides the obvious deformity, signs and symptoms can include:

  • Pain and swelling
  • Burning, tingling or numbness in the surrounding area
  • Thickened skin at the base of the big toe
  • Reduced big toe range of motion
  • Difficulty wearing footwear
  • Associated pain and deformities such as hammer and claw toes.
Bunion pain area

Causes of Bunions

Bunions typically develop when the pressure of weight-bearing and walking is unevenly spread across the foot. The result of this uneven distribution is often due to joint instability and deformity, which can be caused by poor footwear choices like high-heels or tight ill-fitting footwear.

Those with a family history of bunions should be aware that it is the foot type prone to bunions that is passed down (i.e. ‘flat feet or rolling in’), not the bunions themselves.

Preventing Bunions

Once developed, there are no effective treatments to get rid of bunions completely, other than surgery. However, there are plenty of non-surgical approaches we can use to slow the progression of bunions.

The earlier the treatment, the better the outcome! Patients should aim to have appropriate footwear and avoid shoes with a narrow-toe box or high heels. If you have flat feet (‘roll-in’) be sure to wear supportive shoes. If necessary orthotic therapy may be an avenue to discuss with your podiatrist.

Darco splinting for bunions and hammertoes

Pain management for Bunions

Padding, strapping, splinting and orthotics aim to reduce pain levels while also improving function. Simple yet effective, icing the area can also reduce pain and inflammation. Pain medication can be discussed with your GP but ultimately these won’t solve the issue.

Bunion surgery

In some cases, where conservative care does provide relief of the pain and dissatisfaction with a bunion, then a referral to our podiatric foot and ankle surgeon can be provided. Bunion surgeries are highly researched and established procedures, with significant advancements in recent decades.

Concerned about your bunions? We can help. Feel free to call us or enquire online.

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