According to WebMD, "about 10-25% of people have bunions, which can make your feet so sore that you can barely walk." And if you might think that only people of a certain age develop bunions, you'll probably be surprised to find out that bunions can happen to people of any age. In this post, we'll cover the what and why of bunions, and how you can relieve the pain they cause.
If you've developed bunions, you're probably curious to know what caused them. Was it your choice in footwear or is it because one of your parents had them too? Read on to find out the answer, and to learn more about bunions in general.
A bunion is a bony lump that develops on the joint near the base of the big toe (metatarsophalangeal, or MTP). When that joint becomes misaligned, and your big toe is forced against the other toes, a protrusion forms on the inside of your foot at the base of your big toe. This is a bunion, also referred to as hallux valgas.
The MTP carries much of your body's weight when walking and running. With so much stress on the joint, a bunion can become very painful if not treated. While bunions most commonly form near the big toe, they sometimes occur on outside of the little toe. This is called a bunionette.
Bunions are a result of abnormal motion and faulty biomechanics. When the normal balance of forces exerted on the foot is disrupted, the big toe often bears the brunt of instability and increased pressure.
Many women will experience bunions sometime during their lifetime. In fact, more women than men will develop bunions due to the prevalence of high heeled shoes for women.
But according to Science Daily, there are other reasons you may develop bunions:
In Podiatry Today, Doug Richie Jr. DPM FACFAS, points to his conclusion from a review of hundreds of published articles on bunions that "the most common risk factors are either heredity, ill-fitting footwear or both."
If your parents developed bunions, it is more likely that you will as well. Not because bunions are genetic, but rather the biomechanics that lead to bunions are. However, by wearing well-fitting shoes that you've added insoles for bunions to, you can dramatically decrease your likelihood of developing bunions.
The main biomechanical irregularities that cause bunions are:
Apart from biomechanical irregularities, the following issues and conditions can cause bunions:
In the early stages of a bunion forming, you probably won't notice any symptoms, however as the bunion gets worse, symptoms will start to become noticeable. Bunion symptoms can be exacerbated when you're wearing shoes that crowd your toes or if you're wearing high heels.
If you do develop any of these issues, you might have a bunion:
Should you find yourself experiencing any of these foot issues, see a podiatrist for a diagnosis and treatment options. Besides the benefit of getting relief for bunion-related pain, you'll also be getting in front of other issues that can occur because of bunions.
If you develop a bunion, early detection is key to halting its growth and halting the development of other foot issues it can cause.
Because a bunion displaces your big toe, thus wreaking havoc on the normal alignment and function of the rest of your toes, there are a number of foot issues that can arise from bunions. According to a study published in the Arthritis Care & Research journal, these issues include:
You can likely avoid developing these types of issues as a result of your bunions if you are proactive in addressing your bunions with your podiatrist.
While bunions are permanent unless they are surgically corrected, typically only very painful bunions require surgery. There are many conservative treatments that are recommended first.
As a first step, your podiatrist will try to reduce pressure on the bunion and may recommend some of these remedies to relieve pain:
If these home remedies don't give the comfort you need, your podiatrist might perform the following:
Podiatrist Dina Stock says that before you have surgery to correct a bunion, "first do surgery on your shoes. If pain persists for more than a year, it may be time to consider bunion surgery, but most patients will have pain on and off for years before electing surgery."
That said, if you're shopping for footwear that won't irritate your bunion, choose shoes that:
Because the root cause of bunions is improper biomechanics, most podiatrists and foot experts will recommend some type of insoles to prevent or provide bunion support. Adding support to flat feet and unstable arches with a pair of bunion shoe inserts and orthotics will help prevent the development of bunions.
Dr. Dina Stock recommends the "use of shoe inserts to help position the foot correctly. These can be over-the-counter arch supports." When you're looking for orthotics for bunions, make sure you find ones that support your arch by matching the contours of your feet.
Drugstore gel inserts and foam cushions inserts just won't provide the support you need to relieve pain from bunions. Bunion shoe inserts should give firm support with an arch height that matches your arch height.
But just as important as orthotics are for bunions, so too is the footwear you're putting them in. Choosing the appropriate footwear after bunions develop is crucial for relieving pain. The best types of shoes will provide enough space for your feet to rest comfortably.
Finding the right combination of orthotics for bunions and comfortable footwear will go a long way toward relieving your bunion pain and halting the progression of bunion development. Both of which will make your feet much happier!
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