A bunion is a growth of skin at the joint of the big toe, often a result of enlarged tissue or misaligned bone. In some cases, the bunion may be so extreme that it pushes the big toe inward toward the second toe. Skin and tissue surrounding the joint may experience sensitivity to touch, tenderness and pain.
The classic bunion, medically known as hallux abductovalgus or HAV, is a bump on the side of the great toe joint. This bump represents an actual deviation of the 1st metatarsal and often an overgrowth of bone on the metatarsal head. In addition, there is also deviation of the great toe toward the second toe. In severe cases, the great toe can either lie above or below the second toe. Shoes are often blamed for creating these problems. This, however, is inaccurate. It has been noted that primitive tribes where going barefoot is the norm will also develop bunions. Bunions develop from abnormal foot structure and mechanics (e.g. excessive pronation), which place an undue load on the 1st metatarsal. This leads to stretching of supporting soft tissue structures such as joint capsules and ligaments with the end result being gradual deviation of the 1st metatarsal. As the deformity increases, there is an abnormal pull of certain tendons, which leads to the drifting of the great toe toward the 2nd toe. At this stage, there is also adaptation of the joint itself that occurs. SymptomsA bunion, also called a hallux valgus, is a bony prominence on the inside of the big toe, caused by a misalignment of the joint. The overlying skin maybe swollen, red and tender. Bunions are often painful and can limit what shoes you can wear.
Physical examination typically reveals a prominence on the inside (medial) aspect of the forefoot. This represents the bony prominence associated with the great toe joint ( the medial aspect of the first metatarsal head). The great toe is deviated to the outside (laterally) and often rotated slightly. This produces uncovering of the joint at the base of the big toe (first metatarsophalangeal joint subluxation). In mild and moderate bunions, this joint may be repositioned back to a neutral position (reduced) on physical examination. With increased deformity or arthritic changes in the first MTP joint, this joint cannot be fully reduced. Patients may also have a callus at the base of their second toe under their second metatarsal head in the sole of the forefoot. Bunions are often associated with a long second toe.
Non Surgical Treatment
Bunions often respond to conservative care measures and should always be treated by a qualified healthcare professional in a timely and appropriate manner. Conservative treatment for bunions usually involves the following, splinting your great toe (so that it does not migrate toward the inside edge of your foot). A toe-spacer (such as Correct Toes) may be a useful tool, because it helps progressively splay and re-align all of your toes. Performing range of motion exercises (to move your big toe into a more favorable position). Supporting of the joints in the back of your foot that cause forefoot instability. Using shoes that allow the bunion splint to keep your big toe pointing straight ahead.
For very severe bunion deformities where there is considerable angulation between the first and second metatarsals an osteotomy of the metatarsal may not be sufficient and for these patients, the joint between the first metatarsal and the cuneiform bone is fused with screws, called the Lapidus procedure. This realigns the metatarsal completely and stabilizes the bone, preventing mobility and recurrent deformity.
Choosing footwear that fits correctly, especially low heeled shoes with plenty of space for the toes, is one of the main ways that bunions can be prevented. Always stand when trying on shoes to ensure they still fit comfortably when the foot expands under your body weight. Try shoes on both feet, and select the size appropriate for your larger foot. Use an extra insole if one shoe is looser than the other. Do not cramp the larger foot. People prone to flat-footedness should consider the use of arch supports, orthotic shoe inserts or special orthotic shoes to prevent or delay the development of bunions.