What to do About Bunions?


What exactly is a bunion?  A bunion is a bony bump that forms at the base of the big toe joint which becomes enlarged and points inward toward the other toes.  The medical term used for this condition is hallux valgus.  Other symptoms aside from the bony bump: Thickening skin at the base of the toe with redness, swelling and soreness.  People with weak or flat feet including the improper use of foot wear (high heels, tight fitting shoes) and genetically predisposed to inherit the bunion often experience this painful condition.  Most bunion avoidance or relief once bunion is established can be achieved through shoe modification and anti-inflammatory (aspirin and ibuprofen) to assist with swelling and general pain management.  You can relieve pressure on the big toe by wearing shoes that are comfortable and don’t create pressure at this area, and/or by placing a pad on the bunion to reduce friction.  For women they must avoid wearing pointed high heeled shoes. 

 Improper shoe wear creates most bunion issues by rubbing the bony areas of the toe creating a tender red and swollen area where a thick calloused skin covering grows over this heated contact point.   Since bunions never go away once created surgery may be necessary if pain is unmanageable.  Should pain worsen your doctor may recommend a bunionectomy.  This is where the swollen tissue is taken out and/or the toe is straightened by taking out part of the bone and/or permanently joins bone at the affected joint.

 Bunionectomy Surgical procedure:  A general anesthesia will be given prior to the procedure to make you feel as if you are asleep while pain is subdued during the operation.  The doctor will make a cut over the bump, removing excess tissue and may reposition the toe in a more natural position by removing bone.  Recovery time after surgery is typically around 2 months.    Hospital stay after the surgery is really dependent on severity of bunion and how a patient responds to the surgery.  Most patients go home the same day with a foot brace, or special shoe. 

 Recommendations, Prevention and Bunion Pain Management

 Wear roomy shoes that are comfortable and does not irritate, or cramp your feet.

  1. Keep swelling down with anti-inflammatory.  Keep pressure off of affected toe.
  2. See primary care physician if pain worsens.  Get x-ray of joint, see foot specialist.
  3. Wear a thick felt-ring around bunion to alleviate pain.
  4. Get the bunion removed through a surgical procedure (see above – bunionectomy).
  5. Ensure you arrange for care after bunionectomy as walking will be limited for 2 weeks.
  6. Custom made orthotics may reduce bunion pain See Mirror Athlete Press Release .

Benefits of surgery – Your toe won’t hurt, shoes may fit better.  Risk after surgery – Your bunion could come back.  Nerves and arteries could be damaged.  Toe may remain stiff.  Toe could lose blood supply.  Infection and bleeding may occur.

Author:  Marc T. Woodard, MBA, BS Exercise Science, USA Medical Services Officer, CPT, RET.  2009 Copyright, All rights reserved.  Mirror Athlete Enterprises Publishing @: www.mirrorathlete.org, Sign up for your free eNewsletter.

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