What is a Bunion?

Bunions – is a boney lump that develops on the side of your foot just behind your big toe. The bump is caused by the alignment of the bones changing  forceing the joint to shift outwards, making it more prominent. The medical term for bunions is hallux valgus.

Bunions occur in around 23% of adults aged between 18 and 65, with women twice as  likely to develop them. This increases to about 35% in people older than 65 years. It is not uncommon for children and teenagers to develop bunions either with approx. 8% of the population suffering the proplem. It is vital to identify and manage bunions early, as the condition is progressive and the bunions will generally get worse with time.

Pain from bunions can be due to skin and soft tissue irritation from shoes and footwear, both at site of the bunion as well as in other toes. As the bunion progresses, pain can become more severe and cause symptoms in multiple  joints.

What causes a bunion?

Bunions form due to an abnormal pull of muscles around an unstable big toe joint. Factors such as the shape, length  and position of bones in your feet, ligament structure and ligament flexibility may also play a role in developing bunions.

There is also string evidence to suggest the condition may be hereditary. It has previously been thought that poor footwear (including high heels) and flat feet may be causes. Conditions such as Rheumatoid Arthritis and other connective tissue disorders also appear to increase your risk of developing bunions. Conditions such as gout and osteoarthritis can also cause pain and swelling of the big toe joint.

How can bunions be treated?

Early identification and management will help to reduce the amount of deformity and long term damage caused by the condition. Our Podiatrists are thoroughly trained to assess all contributing factors to your condition . This includes assessing the extent of the deformity, muscle strength around the joint, the way you walk (may involve a biomechanical examination and computerised gait analysis) and checking your footwear, sometimes we may order imaging such as X-Ray or ultrasounds.

A comprehensive management plan is then completed and may include:

  • supportive, well-fitting footwear
  • exercises to stretch and strengthen the muscles around the joint
  • protective padding, including customised silicon devices to wear in shoes
  • prescription orthoses for foot support and correction of walking patterns
  • coordinating care with other health professionals as required such as orthopaedic surgeons or rheumatologists.