Bunion... sounds friendly, right? Mildly uncivilized, perhaps, but nonetheless benign. And if you think "bunion" sounds friendly, you might laugh out loud at the word "bunionette." But you shouldn't. Just what is a bunion? Read on to discover what causes these toe irritations and how to avoid them.
Bunions affect people regardless of manners or upbringing, causing significant foot pain and easily leading to arthritis foot pain and reduced mobility. Besides, they alter the appearance of an otherwise elegant foot.
- "Bunion" defined. "Bunion" refers to a bulbous swell along the outer edge of your big toe's biggest joint (otherwise known as the metatarsophalangeal joint). "Bunionette" is the similarly swollen bottom joint of a pinky toe. The swell feels like just an ordinary part of your bone, but does not fit within the natural bone structure of your foot. In fact, it alters the trajectory of your big toe, causing unnatural rotation or movement inward toward the rest of your toes.
- The true nature These aren't a cause of death, but they can cause significant pain. The deformity of your big toe joint makes the joint sensitive even to slight pressure. Walking and athletic activity become increasingly uncomfortable and painful. The skin over a bunion can become inflamed and unsightly. They often lead to arthritis of the big toe joint.
- Side-effects. They affect more than just your big toe. When one part of our natural walking movement causes pain, we adjust our natural gait (unconsciously even) to avoid the pain as best we can. Unfortunately, these adjustments tend to create joint and tendon inflammation elsewhere in the toes, foot and ankle.
- The importance of good footwear. Those pointy little shoes you just bought for a hundred dollars, over time, can cause a bunion to form due to the constant pressure they exert on your toes. They are shaped in a way that will cause your toes to be pushed all together. Pointed toe shoes like these are the most obvious example of outside forces causing a bunion to form. It's also one of the reasons why women suffer from bunion pain more often than men do. But any shoe that restrains the natural width of your foot around the toes area can ultimately lead to a bunion.
- Foot problems that develop regardless of footwear. If your occupation requires you to be on your feet a lot of the time, you bear a heightened risk of developing one. But they develop not only because of bad footwear. Over time, it can form due to a number of physical characteristics (like inadequate arch and atypical bone structure, for example) that disrupt the ideal mechanics of foot movement.
The first step in any foot treatment or bunion treatment is to schedule an appointment with a podiatrist. Here are some of the options your foot doctor might present on how to get foot pain relief caused by a bunion:
Surgery. In severe cases, they can be treated using foot surgery. Doctors rely on many different operations in order to most efficiently correct the various potential causes of a bunion. These different procedures of surgery vary in the amount of bone and joint realignment, bone removal, or cartilage manipulation involved.
They generally all involve what is called a bunionectomy. During a bunionectomy, the doctors will eliminate the tissue mass and then remove some bone in order to straighten the big toe. Obviously this is the most invasive treatment and, like all surgical procedures, there is risk involved. Even after removal, you could still develop a new one on that metatarsophalangeal joint. Therefore, the proper footwear and foot care are still important even after a successful bunionectomy.
Non-surgical treatments. The majority of bunions are not severe enough to warrant surgery. But, as mentioned before, ignoring the intrusion and simply adjusting your gait will only lead to other foot problems. Thankfully, there are many ways to actively get relief and reduce discomfort and swelling.
- Wear more comfortable shoes. If you're like most of us, you've already spent too much time sacrificing comfort for aesthetics. Now the time has come to choose a pair of shoes. Choose some shoes with a round tip that gives your toes plenty of room to occupy their natural space.
- Rest and ice. At the end of a long day, elevate your foot and apply an ice pack to the painful bunion to reduce swelling and inflammation.
- Cushions and spacers. You can buy cushioning pads that ease the pain of any pressure exerted on the bunion. Toe spacers are also available to encourage your toes to maintain their proper positions and avoid big toe pain.
- Orthotics and inserts. Orthotics and over-the-counter inserts can correct the underlying physical issues that caused your bunion in the first place. The doctor will tell you whether your mechanics can be corrected by a simple over-the-counter insert or will require prescription orthotics.
- Pain-relieving medication. In conjunction with these treatments, your doctor may suggest that you take over-the-counter pain relievers like Tylenol or Advil in order to reduce size and discomfort.
- Physical therapy. Physical therapists are now successfully using ultrasound technology as well as massage therapy to decrease the size of bunions. These treatments can also cure the problem altogether.
- Acupuncture. Alternative medicine professionals can use acupuncture to reduce some of the discomfort. Acupuncture is an ancient method of using needles to stimulate pressure points within the body. Stimulating the right energy meridians promotes natural healing.
- Bandages. There are a variety of wraps that you can purchase to correct the issue. These bandages are wrapped around the foot to reshape the area and slowly decrease the bunion.
- Calcarea Phosphorica. Calcarea Phosphorica is a natural remedy. It is a combination of phosphates that include calcium and salts. This mixture treats a variety of afflictions including bunions and foot deformities.
A bunion isn't the end of the world, but can sometimes feel like it. The non-invasive treatment options can greatly reduce inflammation and symptoms. Schedule an appointment with a podiatrist to discuss your options and plot the best course of treatment for your feet. They're worth it!