A bunion is an enlargement of the joint at the base of the big toe. Bunions form when the toe moves out of place. As the big toe bends towards the lesser toes this lump becomes larger and the bunion can become painful. Arthritis can eventually develop in this joint. The medical name for a bunion is Hallux valgus or hallux abducto valgus (HAV).

A Bunion starts as the big toe begins to deviate, developing a bony bump on the inside of the foot, at the base of the big toe. At first the bunion may not be painful, however later as the toes deviate more the bunion can become painful. Soft tissue swelling may develop around the area and a bursa which is like a deep blister may also form. The bunion can become quite painful at this stage. Pain is also caused by pressure from footwear and from the joint losing its normal motion and it may even develop arthritis.

A hammer toe may develop on the second toe this is quite common with bunions. Corns and calluses can develop on the bunion, the big toe and the second toe due to the alterations in pressure from the footwear. The change in pressure on the toe may predispose the patient to developing an ingrown toe nail.

Wearing footwear that is too tight or causing the toes to be squeezed together are the most commonly blamed factor for the cause of bunions, because of this women’s feet are more likely to develop bunions. This probably is the reason for the higher prevalence of bunions among women. However, studies of some native populations that never wear footwear, show that they also can develop bunions, thus footwear is not the only factor in the development of bunions.

Bunions are most widely considered to be due to an imbalance in the forces that is exerted across the joint during walking. The resulting abnormal motion and pressure over the joint, over many years combined with poor fitting footwear leads to instability in the joint causing bunions. Bunions are caused by three major factors footwear, poor foot mechanics and the genetics we inherit.

A number of other factors are known to play a role in the cause of bunions. Patients with flat feet or pronated feet appear to be more prone to the instability about the joint and have a higher incidence of bunions. There are many treatment options for bunions and they will vary with the type and severity of each bunion and will also depend on what is causing the symptoms. There is no exercises that are known to help reduce bunions. Bunions are almost always progressive and tend to get larger and more painful with time how fast this happens may be a function of the fit of the footwear.

The initial goal of treatment options is to relieve pressure on the bunion and any symptoms that may be present and to halt or slow the progression of the joint deformity. At Hampton Podiatry we will carry out a gait assessment and if this is a contributing factor to the development of your bunions, we may recommend custom orthotics to help stabilise this joint thus reducing the rate at which bunions develop.