By Rehan Iqbal
If the joint at the base of your great toe is swollen and the big toe angles toward or over your second toe, you have a bunion (hallux valgus). This condition may also cause inflammation of the tissues and skin surrounding the toe joint. All this swelling and inflammation can cause a great deal of pain, but luckily there are ways of preventing the development or worsening of a bunion. There are also many simple, effective ways to cope with and minimize discomfort. In this article, we will share some smart ideas to help you deal with bunions. Read on to learn more.
How Can You Tell If You Have Bunions?
Of course, a swelling at the base of your great toe is a dead giveaway that you have a bunion. Toes that crisscross may be indicative of bunions or other foot problems. As your big toe angles into your second toe, it may cause that toe to become deformed. It may curl up into a claw shape that becomes difficult to straighten out.
Pain in the great toe joint and/or in the ball of the foot can indicate bunion problems brewing even if you don’t see significant swelling. It’s important to see your general practitioner or podiatrist about these problems right away as neglecting your symptoms will only cause them to worsen. Swelling of the great toe joint can eventually lead to infection if left untreated.
Why Do Bunions Happen?
The precise causes of bunions are not really known. In some cases a person may be predisposed to develop bunions due to heredity. In other cases poorly fitting footwear may be the cause. Sometimes these causes conspire to create this deformity of the foot. If you have rheumatoid or osteoarthritis, you may be more likely to develop painful bunions. If your bunion is not caused by arthritis, it may lead to arthritis.
Whether or not you are predisposed to develop bunions, wearing properly fitting, comfortable, practical shoes is a good way to prevent and deal with bunions and many other foot problems. If your shoes put pressure on your toe joints or cramp your toes, swollen joints are bound to result. Shoes that put pressure on your toe joints cause your bunions to worsen and may also cause blisters or injury to your swollen, painful joints. Likewise, wearing shoes with awkwardly high heels precipitates bunion development.
How Can Bunions Be Treated?
Talk with your doctor or podiatrist about the right kind of footwear to ease your discomfort. Wearing good shoes will not cure your bunions, but it will go far toward reducing your pain. Properly fitting shoes will also help prevent worsening of your condition.
Sort through your existing footwear and get rid of old, worn out shoes and boots and anything that does not fit correctly. Keep shoes that provide good padding and support for the sole of your foot, low-to-moderate heels and ample room in the toe box.
Get rid of shoes that pinch your toes, don’t have enough cushioning and/or have very high heels. All of these qualities promote the development and worsening of bunions.
Take care when selecting new shoes. Some good choices in shoes for bunions include walking shoes, trainers or even slippers equipped with high-quality, supportive inserts to provide protection and support.
If you have trouble with periodic swelling of your feet, look for shoes that lace up or strap up. This will allow you to adjust the size of the shoe and the amount of pressure on your feet.
The most important thing is to give your toes and toe joints plenty of room. Your footwear should not put pressure on these sensitive areas at all.
What Else Can Be Done To Reduce Bunion Pain?
If your bunion is very painful, look for bunion sleeves or pads to add extra cushioning and protection. When you are relaxing, kick your shoes off, put your feet up and apply an ice pack to your swollen, inflamed bunion.
Your doctor may recommend use of a night time bunion splint to help ease pain. Very often these devices are sold over-the-counter or online as bunion “cures”. It’s important to understand that you cannot cure your bunion through footwear or devices, but both of these options can really help manage pain.
Taking over the counter medication can also help with bunion pain. Ibuprofen and other NSAIDs are easy to acquire and safe to use as long as you follow packaging directions.
Be sure to discuss your use of pain medications with your doctor to avoid accidental duplication of meds. Your doctor may also prescribe a course of antibiotics if you are experiencing significant swelling caused by infection. Once your infection is under control, swelling should go down and your pain should level should recede.
Can Bunions Be Cured?
If your pain and swelling interfere significantly with your activities of daily living, you may wish to have bunion surgery. The goal of this type of surgery is the straightening of the toe joint. These days this is a simple operation which is sometimes done as an office procedure. In some cases, you may spend a day in hospital. The operation may be performed under local anesthetic or general anesthetic.
1. In some types of bunion surgery, parts of the joint are pared away to reduce swelling and adjust the set of the joint.
2. In some situations, your podiatrist may recommend joint replacement. In this surgery, the great toe joint is replaced with an artificial joint.
3. Another common procedure used to deal with bunions is the “scarf ostomy”. This involves a series of cuts in the bone to reduce the size and adjust the positioning of the toe joint.
4. Sometimes the joint is fused in a procedure known as arthrodesis. This procedure limits the joint’s ability to move and flex thus eliminating pain.
How Is Your Bunion Surgery Procedure Chosen?
Your doctor will discuss your options with you and help you decide which procedure is best for you. Some factors he or she will take into account include:
Your doctor will also consider his or her own level of expertise and experience as well as preferences in performing one type of surgery over another. If you have concerns about the surgery proposed by your doctor, ask a few more questions to find out if this is the case. If another procedure would work just as well or better for you, and you would be more comfortable with it, this is more important than your doctor’s level of comfort when performing a particular procedure.
Will Bunion Surgery Resolve All Your Symptoms?
Bunion surgery is usually fairly straightforward and relatively successful; however, it probably will not entirely eliminate your discomfort. Naturally, during the recovery period you may experience much more pain for a week or two.
Even after you have fully recovered, you may still have some pain and your toes may not be entirely straightened. After surgery, it is important to follow your doctor’s instructions regarding exercise and to continue wearing comfortable, well-fitted shoes. Doing so can help you avoid complications such as:
You may be advised to wear a special boot or shoe for about six weeks following your bunion surgery. You will leave the hospital or doctor’s office with specific advice and information which you should follow carefully to ensure the success of your recovery.