A bunion is a “bump” on the joint at the base of the big toe that forms when the bone or tissue at the big toe joint moves out of place. The toe is forced to bend toward the others, causing an often painful lump of bone on the foot. Because this joint carries a lot of the body's weight while walking, bunions can cause extreme pain if left untreated and even making wearing shoes difficult or impossible.
By simply examining the foot and watching as you move your big toe around, a doctor can usually diagnose a bunion.
Treatment for Bunions
Treatment options vary with the type and severity of each bunion. A podiatrist may recommend these treatments:
- Padding and Taping: Often the first step in a treatment plan, padding the bunion minimizes pain and allows the patient to continue a normal, active life. Taping helps keep the foot in a normal position, thus reducing stress and pain.
- Medication: Anti-inflammatory drugs and cortisone injections are often prescribed to ease the pain and inflammation caused by joint deformities.
- Physical Therapy: Often used to provide relief of the inflammation and bunion pain. Ultrasound therapy is a popular technique for treating bunions and their associated soft tissue involvement.
- Orthotics: Shoe inserts may be useful in controlling foot function and may reduce symptoms and prevent worsening of the deformity.
- Surgical Options: Identifying the deformity early in its development is important in avoiding surgery. When early treatments fail, podiatric surgery may become necessary to relieve pressure and repair the toe joint. Several surgical procedures are available to the podiatrist. Surgery will remove the bony enlargement, restore the normal alignment of the toe joint, and relieve pain.
A simple bunionectomy, in which only the bony prominence is removed, may be used for the less severe deformity.
Severe bunions may require a more involved procedure, which includes cutting the bone and realigning the joint. Recuperation takes time, and swelling and some discomfort are common for several weeks following surgery. Pain, however, is easily managed with medications prescribed by your podiatrist.