What is a Bunion?
A bunion is a bony deformity found at the base of the big toe. More commonly found in women, this condition is also called hallux valgus. A number of female celebrities also have bunions on their feet like Posh Spice Victoria Beckham, Hidden Dragon Crouching Tiger actress Michelle Yeoh, Emmy Award Nominee Christina Hendricks, TV personality, socialite, and heiress Paris Hilton, Spanish actress Penelope Cruz, George Clooney’s wife Amal, supermodel Naomi Campbell, and even America's favorite queen of talk, Oprah Winfrey.
The bump is caused by a shift or deviation of the bone in your large toe. It can cause pain, inflammation, and/or redness. When the outside of the foot at the base of the little toe is affected, this is referred to as tailor’s bunion or a bunionette.
The other signs and symptoms of bunions include
- a bony bump on the outside edge of the foot
- pain over the big toe joint that’s made worse by pressure from high heels or tight shoes
- swelling over the big toe joint
- sore skin over the top of the bunion
- hard, callused and red skin
- noticeable change in the shape of the foot
- finding shoes that fit because of the altered shape of the foot
Bunions may start small but over time, it may become bigger. If one continues to wear tight narrow shoes, it can be more painful and difficult to walk.
The exact cause of bunions in not known but genetics seems to play a big role. Other possible causes are existing foot conditions like flat feet, high arches, overpronation and various foot problems like arthritis, sprains, and fractures. Wearing shoes that do not fit well or very high-heeled tight shoes may not actually cause bunions but may make the deformity progressively worse.
Conservative Treatment for Bunions
There are a number of nonsurgical ways to manage bunions. The first step is to wear the right type of shoes. These should be wide enough especially in the toe box to accommodate the bunion. Shoes with flexible soles to support the foot are also helpful. Shoes with a back should be able to keep the heels snugly in place. Keep away from high-heeled shoes. Anything higher than an inch can put undue stress on the bunion.
In cases where the bunion is irritated and painful, either ice packs or warm soaks can soothe the soreness. Nonsteroidal anti inflammatory medications or NSAIDs such as ibuprofen or aspirin may help with the pain. For more severe cases, cortisone injections can temporarily relieve pain by reducing inflammation but they can have side effects especially in high doses and multiple shots.
A simpler method to involves the use of a thermoplastic splint. This is supposed to relieve bunion pain, straighten the big toe, and reduce the size of the bump. With proper compliance, patients can resume their with lesser to no pain. Splints may also provide bunion pain relief for those with severe stages of bunion.
Passive and active exercises may also relieve bunion symptoms and increase flexibility. These include toe stretches, toe flexing and contracting, ball roll, resistance exercises, towel curls, picking up marbles with the toes, and even walking along the beach or sand which serves as a gentle foot massage.
Keeping a normal weight also helps with bunion problems.
Gel-filled pads or moleskin are readily available at drugstores. Similarly, these provide support and relieve bunion pain.
However, it is important to note that these conservative measures will not get rid of the bunion because the bunion is a biomechanical deformity. These can only help in relieving the symptoms or may delay its progression. The only way to treat bunions is through bunion surgery.
When is surgery needed for bunion?
When all conservative and nonsurgical bunion treatments fail and the pain interferes with the daily activities, then it may be time to visit your podiatrist. Discuss your options and the different surgical methods for bunion treatment.
The traditional bunion surgery involves a long incision and has a reputation of being painful with a lengthy recovery period. The cut is done to expose the bulging bone. Then a part of the metatarsal head is removed, then the bone is cut around the neck of the metatarsal bone. The free head is repositioned to a more normal position. Once the bones are well-positioned they are pinned to place and excess bone is removed. In traditional bunion surgery expect swelling and pain after surgery and it takes 6 to 8 weeks of recovery time.
The newer methods for removing bunions such as the minimally invasive bunion surgery involve very small incision.
The modified Lam /scarless bunion surgery is an innovative method that is virtually painless and scarless bunion treatment.
Dr. Kevin Lam, a Double Certified foot and ankle surgeon in Naples, Florida has developed the Lam modification bunion surgery which utilizes a very small incision, minimal discomfort, and virtually painless scarless bunion surgery.
The new fixation technique allows a patient to be up and about the same day!
It is very important that this ground-breaking technique is performed by a specialist foot and ankle surgeon who has extensive experience in all bunion surgery techniques.
For more infomation, call or visit any of the Family Foot and Leg Center, P.A. offices conveniently located in Naples (Goodlette Medical Park), North Naples (Royal Palm Medical Building, Medical Blvd), and East Naples (Gridley Building, Tamiami Trail East) or contact (239) 430-3668 (FOOT)