The Bend of a Bunion

istock 183839189 1 Bunions are the bane of every woman who works in an occupation that demands her to be on her feet. That’s not necessarily the cause, but the pain makes it difficult to find shoes that can be worn pain free.

A bunion develops on the inside of the foot at the big toe joint. Pressure causes the big toe to lean over toward the adjacent second toe, and a bump forms on the outside of the foot. They are much more common in women than men.

At our five Foot & Ankle Clinics of Utah locations, we usually use conservative treatments for our patients’ bunions, although our board-certified foot surgeons can also perform surgery when necessary.

How does a bunion form?

Bunions form when there is abnormal motion and pressure across the metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint. This is the joint at the base of the big toe. When the normal balance of forces applied to our feet become abnormal or unbalanced, the MTP joint becomes enlarged. This forces the big toe to lean inward on the foot, and the bump forms on the inside of the foot.

Bunions are often the result of an inherited foot type that impacts the way the person walks. They can also form after a foot injury, due to certain neuromuscular disorders, or congenital deformities. People with flat feet are more prone, as are arthritis sufferers. Occupations that place inordinate amounts of stress on the feet increase the risk. Ballet dancers often develop bunions. Wearing shoes that are too tight in the toe box also contributes to bunion development.

Treatment options

Most bunions can be treated without surgery. These methods won’t “reverse” the bunion but can reduce pain and keep it from worsening.

  • New shoes — Changing footwear is the usual first treatment approach, switching to shoes that don’t compress the toe.
  • Padding — Protective pads can help cushion the painful area, but they can also increase pressure, so they may not be helpful.
  • Orthotics, etc. — Orthotics (shoe inserts) can be used in your shoes, toe spacers can keep your toes apart, and a night splint can place your big toe in a straighter position.
  • Icing — Icing the bunion several times a day for 20 minutes can reduce swelling.
  • Medications — Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications relieve pain and reduce swelling.

Surgery

If the above treatments have been used, but you’re still having problems with pain and even walking, surgery with one of our four board-certified foot surgeons could be the answer. Bunion surgery realigns bone, ligaments, tendons, and nerves so that the big toe can be brought back into the correct alignment.

If you’re dealing with the daily pain of a bunion, please give us a call at any of our five locations in American Fork (801), 763-3885; Payson, (801) 765-1718; Springville (801) 491-3668; and Orem (two locations, (801) 226-2421 or (801) 765-1718).

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