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  • Writer's pictureMy Family Podiatry

Understanding Bunions and Their Treatment

Updated: Aug 15, 2023

“Will my feet look like mum’s as I get older?” This question often echoes in our podiatry clinics, hinting at the common concern many have about inheriting a family member's foot condition. At the other end, some patients delay their visit until their bunion has markedly progressed, too embarrassed by the condition to seek early intervention. So, what exactly is a bunion, and how can we prevent and treat it?

What Is A Bunion

A bunion is a change in foot structure in which the big toe begins to bend toward the lesser toes. This shift can lead to foot deformity, reduced balance, mobility, and often pain. Predominantly seen in older individuals, it's essential to note that bunions can develop at any age, even in children. As the toe drifts, it adds undue stress on the joint, potentially triggering arthritic changes and the painful emergence of a bursa.

Image of a foot with a bunion displayed next to a foot without a bunion
Foot with a bunion next to a healthy foot

While it remains somewhat mysterious why bunions plague some and spare others, several factors seem to influence their development:

  • Genetics: Bunions frequently seem to be a family affair.

  • Footwear: Tight, narrow shoes, especially with constrictive toe areas, force the big toe sideways.

  • Foot Posture: If you have flat feet or if your feet tend to roll inwards, the added pressure on the side of your big toe can heighten your risk of developing a bunion.

How To Avoid Developing A Bunion

The main methods of avoiding bunions involves reducing the risk factors mentioned above. While you cannot change your genetics, you can avoid tight, narrow or ill-fitting shoes and opt for shoes with ample space in the toe region to reduce toe compression. Issues with gait and foot posture can also be corrected, and if interventions are made early, the potential damage can be avoided.

What Do I Do If I Already Have A Bunion?

For those who have already developed a bunion, the main priority is preventing this from becoming worse. Many people live with bunions without experiencing any significant concerns or issues. However, the goal remains clear: preventing the bunion from becoming stiffer and more problematic.

  • Footwear advice: It's all about that toe space! Shoes with a broader toe box reduce bunion compression, offering comfort and slowing its progression.

  • Orthotics: Tailor-made foot orthotics can readjust foot positioning, alleviating big toe pressure and placing the foot into a more optimal position. If arthritis has compromised toe movement, orthotics can redirect foot function, preserving big toe mobility or in extreme cases, stopping movement completely.

  • Management of callus or corn development: Friction between the “bump” of a bunion from where it rubs on footwear can lead to the development of callus and even a painful corn. Your podiatrist is skilled in painlessly removing this callus and can recommend ways to limit it’s formation.

  • Toe splints and toe spreaders: While toe splints and spreaders might seem promising, they often fail to rectify the bunion. In some cases, they might even exacerbate the issue by displacing the smaller toes.

In certain advanced cases, surgery might become necessary. The world of bunion correction surgery offers numerous techniques, undertaken by either orthopaedic or podiatric surgeons. Your podiatrist can gauge the joint's dysfunction level, it’s impact on your daily life and discuss with you if surgery is the most fitting solution.

Bunions: Not The End Of Your Active Life

Bunions, while challenging, shouldn't halt your zest for life and activity. If you have been struggling with bunion discomfort or merely seeking preventive advice, reach out to the team at My Family Podiatry. Call us on 07 3088 6116 or click the button below to discuss your bunion treatment options and set your feet on the path to health.

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