Bunions: When Should I Seek Treatment?
Many people are familiar with the term ‘bunion’ and know that it occurs on the foot, but in many cases they don’t know what defines a bunion. It is commonly described as a bony growth on the outside of the big toe, but this is incorrect.
A bunion is a structural deformity. The big toe joint becomes subluxed and shifts towards the other toes. As a result, the metatarsal of the big toe looks like a prominent bony protrusion.
At first, a bunion may seem like nothing more than an inconvenience that makes shopping for shoes tricky, or there may be mild discomfort when walking or standing. Over time, however, bunions can progress and eventually become a severe foot deformity that is both unsightly and very painful.
Treatment is a critical part of managing bunion progression, but when thinking about treatment options for your bunions, consider the following:
- While there is no specific point when patients should seek treatment, the first and most important consideration is the presence of pain. Pain located directly on the bunion is a sign that there is increasing pressure on the joint, which can quickly lead to arthritic degeneration. It also creates altered foot biomechanics – in other words, a change in your gait, which can affect many other areas of the body, such as the ankles, knees, hips and back.
- Similarly, if bunions are starting to interfere with activities of daily living, it’s time to seek treatment. Impact activities, such as running or other sports, may become more challenging to perform as well.
- An indicator that your bunion is worsening is if the second toe starts to overlap or underlap the big toe. When the second toe begins to overlap the big toe, it’s not necessarily as painful as it might sound. But an increased risk of secondary problems, such as metatarsal stress fractures, also rise.
It’s important to know that not all bunions progress or worsen over time. Some never change in size, while some can progress into major foot deformities. Genetics play a big role in how a bunion develops.
If you are unsure whether your bunion may need treatment, it’s always best to err on the side of caution and have it examined by a podiatrist. There might be simple treatment options that go a long way in reducing pain, such as better shoe selection tips; soaks and oral medication that counteract muscle spasms associated with muscular imbalance; foot strengthening exercises; arch supports to help with proper foot alignment; bunion padding; or toe spacers or splints.
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