Bunions are probably the most common foot disorder seen in podiatry. The term bunion itself is used by patients describing the bony lump found near the base of the big toe, which is usually an adaptation of the positional change of the big toe. Hallux abducto valgus (HAV) is a medical term, which describes the position of the hallux (big toe) with respect to the connecting bone of the mid foot (metatarsal). In this foot disorder, the hallux deviates towards the lesser toes and the metatarsal moves towards the midline.
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.
SymptomsThe skin over your big toe may be red and tender. Wearing any type of shoe may be painful. This joint flexes with every step you take. Your big toe may angle toward your second toe, or even move all the way under it. The skin on the bottom of your foot may become thicker and painful. Pressure from your big toe may force your second toe out of alignment, sometimes overlapping your third toe. If this condition gets severe, it may be difficult to walk. Your pain may become chronic and you may develop arthritis.
Your doctor is very likely to be able to diagnose your bunion simply by examining your foot. Even before that, he or she will probably ask about your family and personal medical history and evaluate the types of shoes you wear. You’ll be asked about your symptoms, when they started and when they occur. You may also be asked to flex your toe so that your doctor can get an idea of your range of motion. He or she may order x-rays in order to determine the extent of your deformity.
Non Surgical Treatment
Depending on how many of the causative factors are true, a series of exercises to ensure correct alignment and stability of the lower limb should be implemented. Supportive foot wear with correct width and arch support can provide relief -shoes such as ballet flats, thongs (flip flops) and Ugg boots (or slippers) should be avoided. Mobilization of the mid foot to help re-align the toe correctly, and then taping and padding in the shoe to keep the toe in alignment. Taping to help draw the 1st metatarsal back in towards the second and correct any rotation and drop of the 1st metatarsal. Foam padding shaped like a donut to off load the pressure on the outside of the big toe.
Bunion surgery is occasionally required when the bunion deformity is too advanced for conservative treatment to work. Your surgeon will usually cut an angular section from the bone to correct the alignment. In some cases, multiple toes may need to be straighten.
Bunions often become painful if they are allowed to progress. But not all bunions progress. Many bunion problems can be managed without surgery. In general, bunions that are not painful do not need surgical correction. For this reason, orthopaedic surgeons do not recommend “preventive” surgery for bunions that do not hurt; with proper preventive care, they may never become a problem.