A bunion (or Hallux Valgus) is a swelling or bump at the base of the big toe. A bony deformity, bunions can cause inflammation and pain, especially when wearing footwear.
As well as swelling on the side of the foot, the big toe will visibly point towards the other toes. This, in turn, may lead to the big toe joint to stick outwards.
Bunions may make walking difficult, make it hard to find shoes that fit comfortably, or in some cases cause pain in the hip, knee, back and other parts of the foot.
- Swollen, bony lump on the side of the foot
- Pain in the big toe joint
- Hardened skin or a callus over the bump
Hallux Valgus can be a result of genetics, especially in families that have unusually flexible joints. Having a history of bunions in the family does not mean you’ll definitely develop one, but the risk may be increased.
Ill-fitting footwear is another cause of bunions. High heels are particularly culpable as they can squeeze toes, and put pressure on toe joints as body weight is pushed forward.
Wearing shoes that are too tight may also rub against an existing bunion, making it worse.
Other causes may be arthritis, Flat feet, gout and conditions such as cerebral palsy.
As the pain suffered as a result of Hallux Valgus can vary greatly from person to person, in most cases a non-surgical treatment will be suggested where possible. While these measures may ease the symptoms, they will not cure a bunion.
Often simple steps could be enough to ease the pain of a bunion. These could be as straightforward as wearing well-fitting, wide shoes. Specially designed shoes with custom insoles and uppers can also be used to take pressure off the affected joints.
An in-shoe orthotic or arch support may be effective for those with flat feet, as they promote correct alignment, which may prevent bunions from getting bigger. Likewise, a bunion pad can help ease the pain of a bunion by preventing the foot from rubbing on your shoe.
If the bunion is painful and swollen, applying an ice pack could help relieve pain and inflammation. When applied several times a day, ice can help to reduce swelling.
Over the counter painkillers including paracetamol and ibuprofen can help remove pain and swelling. Another solution could be to have a steroid injection, especially if arthritis is the underlying cause of the bunion.
Surgery may be required if the pain is significant and adversely affecting your quality of life.
Often a day procedure (surgery often takes less than an hour), there are several different procedures that can correct bunions and realign the big toe. Here are some of the most common:
Osteotomy – The most common method of surgery, osteotomy involves the cutting and removal of part of the bone. There are different types of osteotomy, but often the bony ‘lump’ is removed and the bones and joint realigned. The soft tissues in the foot may also be realigned at the same time.
Arthrodesis – In cases where the joint is severely deformed and cannot be repaired, an arthrodesis may be carried out. Joint implants though may be an alternative. This involves fusing the two bones in the joint together. The side effect of this is that movement of the toe is severely limited.
Usually, patients will be able to walk immediately afterwards, although crutches or a brace may be required for the first weeks. The affected foot will usually be swollen for about three months, which may mean driving cannot be undertaken for this period.
Find out more about how we can help treat Hallux Valgus
To find out more about how we can help treat Hallux Valgus or for more information about Total Foot Surgery, contact us on 07449419401 or use our online contact form.