Unless you are particularly unobservant, you won’t just wake up one morning and say, “Oh my! There’s a big bump on my foot by my big toe!” Bunions don’t happen overnight or from a sudden injury, but rather develop over time from a variety of causes. Bunion treatment takes many forms, too, and the goal is to avoid the need for surgery if possible.
Where Bunions Come From
In a way, it resembles the chicken and egg problem. Did the bunion come first and make your shoes feel tight? Or did the tight shoes cause your big toe joint to push out to the side? There are reputable podiatrists who come down on both sides of the argument.
There are three things that most experts will agree on, however: one, genetics play a role in who gets them; two, shoes can speed up the problem, even if they don’t cause it; and three, if you identify the issue in the early stages, you have a better chance of avoiding severe problems like pain and deformity.
Determining Your Risk
A look at your mom’s feet may be the best indicator, since the condition seems to run in families. If she has the telltale bony bumps along the inside edge of her feet, you are more likely to have them, too. You may have inherited her gait problems along with her foot structure. If your foot tips to the inside as you take a step (overpronates), the forces that form bunions are definitely in play.
Take a look at the shoes in your closet, too. If you consistently wear pairs that have heels higher than 2 inches, or fronts that are pointed or press tightly against your toes, your risk for this deformity just went up a few notches. That may be the best excuse yet to indulge your love of shoe shopping—as long as your next pair is sensible!
Treating Bunions in the Early Stages
Your first indication of a problem might be redness at the joint of your big toe and foot. You may not see a bump yet, but if it has started, the joint will rub against your shoe. It may swell up, too. The farther the toe and foot bones move out of position, the more pronounced the bump will be, and you may start to feel an aching pain. The bunion will not go away on its own if you do nothing.
If you notice any of these symptoms, come in to Parker Foot & Ankle right away. We can begin conservative treatment to stop the progression and relieve symptoms. This may include:
- Changing to different shoes, or modifying the ones you have
- Wearing protective padding on the joint
- Using splints at night to hold the toe straight while you sleep
- Icing the joint or taking medication to relieve the pain
- Wearing custom orthotics that correct the pressure on your toes
- Doing physical therapy to stretch and strengthen the tissues that hold your foot bones in place
Some of these only address your symptoms, and some have no studies to prove they work, although patients often do see some improvement. If they can control your pain and allow you to function, they have value.
Bunion Surgery for Difficult Cases
If your condition keeps getting worse and interfering with your daily activity, it is time to consider surgery. Some procedures involve simply shaving off part of the protruding bone (exostectomy), while others cut and realign the bones and hold them in place with pins and screws (osteotomy). There are at least a hundred specific types of surgery for bunion removal; Dr. Parker was the first to introduce procedures such as the Austin method and Z-bunionectomy and the Houston area, and has the extensive experience and training you need to select the best surgical method and perform it properly.
Contact Parker Foot & Ankle in Houston, TX for an appointment to start the journey toward walking pain-free. You can reach us by phone at (281) 497-2850 or connect with us through our contact page.
Left: diagram of bunion pre-, intra-, and post-Z-bunionectomy procedure.