A bunion is a bony growth in the lower joint of your big toe. It usually forms where the big toe pushes over against the second toe, forcing the joint to stick out. As a weight-bearing joint, this can be extremely painful. Calluses and blisters can form on the edge of the bunion, doubling the pain. This crippling foot affliction usually gets worse with time. Surgery for bunions can be complicated, expensive, painful and does not guarantee a well-formed foot as the outcome.
Bunions are a common problem experienced mostly by women. The deformity can develop from an abnormality in foot function, or arthritis, but is more commonly caused by wearing improper fitting footwear. Tight, narrow dress shoes with a constrictive toe box (toe area) can cause the foot to begin to take the shape of the shoe, leading to the formation of a bunion. Women who have bunions normally wear dress shoes that are too small for their feet. Their toes are squeezed together in their shoes causing the first metatarsal bone to protrude on the side of the foot. It is important for men and women to realize that wearing dress shoes and boots, which are tapered in the toe area, can cause the bunion to worsen to the point where surgery is necessary.
Corns and calluses may occur on the soles of the feet, in between toes and on the bunion joint. Stiffness can occur at the big toe due to secondary arthritis, this is known as Hallux Rigidus. Other foot conditions can occur such as in growing toenails and in severe cases the bunion joint may have a fluid filled sack called a bursitis. This can be very painful and can become infected.
When an x-ray of a bunion is taken, there is usually angulation between the first metatarsal bone and the bones of the big toe. There may also be angulation between the first and second metatarsal bones. These angular irregularities are the essence of most bunions. In general, surgery for bunions aims to correct such angular deformities.
Non Surgical Treatment
Depending on how many of the causative factors are true, a series of exercises to ensure correct alignment and stability of the lower limb should be implemented. Supportive foot wear with correct width and arch support can provide relief -shoes such as ballet flats, thongs (flip flops) and Ugg boots (or slippers) should be avoided. Mobilization of the mid foot to help re-align the toe correctly, and then taping and padding in the shoe to keep the toe in alignment. Taping to help draw the 1st metatarsal back in towards the second and correct any rotation and drop of the 1st metatarsal. Foam padding shaped like a donut to off load the pressure on the outside of the big toe.
Bunion surgery is usually done as an out patient procedure, so the patient does not have to stay in hospital overnight although it is usually performed under a general anesthetic. The procedure involves the surgeon making a cut on the inside of the big toe joint and removing excess bone whilst also repositioning ligaments and tendons. The joint may be fixed with screws or wires, which may be dissolve, or may be removed at a later date or in some cases, remain in the foot permanently. After the operation the foot will be immobilized, often in a cast for 4 to 8 weeks to keep the bones in alignment. Crutches will usually be issued to help the patient get around. After this period, the foot will be assessed to check the bones have healed correctly. At which point full weight bearing may be gradually introduced.