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Bunions: Managing the Bump

You can find them on the feet of supermodels, dancers, soccer moms, and your neighbors alike. Bunions can happen to anyone, and they are unfortunately common. They are treatable, though—and the earlier you address them, the more successful managing them tends to be.

Source of the Bulge

Bunions are a foot deformity that creates a bony bump at the base your big toe. The protrusion develops when your first metatarsal and your big toe slide out of their natural alignment. The big toe leans in toward its neighbors while the metatarsal tilts away from the others. That joint then bulges out to the side. Friction and pressure against this bump can cause it to become enlarged, worsening the problem.

You develop a bunion because of your foot shape, though the external forces working on it certainly have an impact as well. Faulty biomechanics or weak foot structures, which may be inherited, allow the toe to slide out of alignment. Pressure on the foot from influencers like your shoes contribute to the issue. Narrow footwear , particularly if it has a pointed toe box or raised heel, squeezes the forefoot and puts unnecessary pressure on the big toe, which may compound the alignment issue. Pre-existing conditions and activities that increase the pressure on the forefoot also increase your risk for developing this problem.

Symptoms and Concerns

This condition can be quite uncomfortable, especially as it worsens. Friction against the bulge from your shoes causes some pain. The bump at the base of your big toe may grow larger as the tissues there become inflamed and swell. The area will feel sore and may appear red. Often, calluses grow around the bulge and under the toe and you may notice corns forming on other digits. Over time, you may find it more difficult to move or use the big toe.

As a bunion progresses—which it tends to do, unless treatment prevents it—you’re more likely to develop additional problems as complications. Bursitis, hammertoe, and metatarsalgia are all possible conditions that could arise. Wearing most shoes will become difficult. As the toe stiffens, you may even have trouble walking and participating in your regular activities. To relieve the pain and retain your toe function, you’ll need to manage your condition carefully.

Relieving the Bump’s Pressure

The good news is that you can treat these deformities with conservative methods, slowing or halting the progress of the problem. You’ll need to have the digit carefully examined by experts, like Dr. Paul C. LaFata and our team here at West Lawn Podiatry Associates. We will use a variety of tests, most likely including diagnostic images, to get a clearer picture of the extent of your condition and the factors that influenced it. Then, we can begin a therapy plan tailored to your unique needs.

Padding and protecting the protrusion will be key in relieving bunion pain. Using gel or moleskin padding helps protect your feet from your footwear. You’ll also need to adjust your shoes so you’re not putting unnecessary strain on your big toe. This will mean choosing footwear with a wide toe box, low heels, and sufficient midfoot support. Custom orthotics may help control any abnormal biomechanical motion that may have contributed to the condition, as well as protect the bulge. Reducing the inflammation in the joint will help with the discomfort as well—icing the foot is good for this. We may also recommend anti-inflammatory medications.

Because bunions are a bony deformity, though, conservative therapies cannot reverse the damage done to your feet. They also do not help everyone. If your bulge is persistently painful, or continues to get worse, you may need surgery to directly correct the issue in the bones.

This common problem doesn’t have to cause you pain or control your activities. You can manage the condition and improve your lower limb function by taking conservative steps to address your foot health. If you’re struggling with foot pain or a bulge at the base of your big toe, let us know here at West Lawn Podiatry Associates, serving West Lawn, Reading, Wyomissing, and the surrounding communities. Call our office at (610) 678-4581 or use the online request form to make an appointment with us.