Whether you are 18 or 80 – or any other age in between – having a bunion can keep you from doing the things you love.
Some of us may not develop these bony deformities until middle age, although bunions may also be experienced early in life. But no matter how old you are, having bunions can lead to problems like blisters, corns, calluses, arthritis, joint pain, and even difficulty walking or fitting into your favorite pair of shoes.
A bunion is often described as a bump on the side of the big toe, but this condition goes much deeper than that – this visible bump actually reflects changes in the structure of the front part of the foot. And this essentially happens as the metatarsal bone starts to shift out of place while the big toe begins to lean toward the second toe.
In turn, that throws the bones out of alignment and creates the visible bump on the side of the big toe.
As common as bunions are, there are many misconceptions when it comes to this condition. In fact, many people unnecessarily suffer through bunion pains for years before seeking medical treatment. But doing so, is one of the biggest mistakes you can make when it comes to treating this painful condition.
That’s because bunion is a progressive condition, and although reversing the damage is quite difficult, preventing it can be fairly simple. And while in severe cases surgery may be necessary in the end, you can avoid it entirely by getting serious about conservative treatments early.
What’s even better, you don’t have to be in your 20’s or 30’s for it to work!
So, keep reading to find out how you can make bunions a problem of the past.
Causes and Symptoms
Though there are many different causes of bunions—and they differ for each person—this condition is mainly caused by an inherited biomechanics flaw of the foot.
That said, it is not the bunion itself that is inherited, but certain foot types that can make you prone to developing a bunion, like flat feet.
Other common causes include wearing tight-fitting shoes or having lax ligaments, hypermobile joints and even a tight Achilles tendon. Together with the aforementioned predisposing genetic factors, years of abnormal motion and pressure on the big toe joint can very well cause a bunion to develop.
Usually, bunion symptoms will become more advanced when wearing shoes that crowd the toes, have a tight toe box, or high heels. And this is a great explanation as to why women are more likely to experience bunion symptoms compared to men!
Below are some of the most common indicators of bunion development:
- Pain or soreness
- Inflammation and redness
- Burning sensation
- Numbing sensation
- Calluses on the big toe
- Sores between the toes
- Restricted motion of the toe
All in all, bunions are very apparent – you can readily see the bony protrusion at the base of the big toe or side of the foot. However, in order to fully evaluate your condition, Dr. Miyazaki may take x-rays to determine the degree of the deformity.
As already mentioned, bunions are progressive, and they will not go away when left untreated. In fact, bunions often tend to get worse over time. Once Dr. Miyazaki has evaluated your specific case, a treatment plan will be developed that is suited to your particular needs.
With a little luck, conservative treatment methods may be just what you need to get back to living a pain-free life.
Treatment Without Surgery
When bunion symptoms are caught early, then observation may be all that is needed – a periodic office evaluation and x-ray examination can determine if your bunion deformity is advancing, and this will reduce the chance of irreversible damage to the joint.
In most cases, however, some type of treatment is required.
Keep in mind that early treatments are aimed at easing the pain of bunions, but they do not reverse the deformity itself.
Below are some of the treatment options available:
- Changes in footwear. Wearing the right kinds of shoes is very important. You should always choose shoes that have a wide toe box and avoid those with pointed toes or high heels which may aggravate the condition.
- Padding. Pads placed over the area of the bunion can help minimize pain. Dr. Miyazaki can prescribe these to you, or you may purchase them at a drug store.
- Activity modifications. Avoid all activities that cause bunion pain, including standing for long periods of time.
- Medications. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen, may help to relieve pain.
- Icing. Applying an ice pack several times a day helps reduce inflammation and pain. Remember to never apply ice directly to your skin – use a towel for protection!
- Orthotic devices. Custom orthotic devices can provide you with the comfort and support you need. Dr. Miyazaki can prescribe the best type of orthotics to fit your specific situation.
These treatment options can relieve much of the pain you may be experiencing. However, when all methods have failed and bunion discomfort continues to interfere with your daily activities, then it may be time to discuss surgical options. Together you and Dr. Miyazaki can decide if surgery is best for you.
When Surgery is Needed
We understand that having surgery is a big decision. And Dr. Miyazaki will only recommend this type of treatment when it is absolutely necessary and the best treatment option for you. Not to mention that recent advances in surgical techniques have led to a very high success rate in treating bunions.
So if you ultimately end up needing bunion surgery, then you can rest assured that you are in good hands.
Bunion surgeries are designed to remove the bony protrusion and correct abnormal changes in the structure of the foot, as well as correct soft tissue changes that may also have occurred. In doing so, the goal of these surgeries is to eliminate the pain.
In selecting the procedure – or combination of procedures – for your specific case, Dr. Miyazaki will take into consideration the extent of your deformity based on the x-ray findings, your age, your activity level, and more. The length of the recovery period will vary, depending on the procedure – or procedures – performed.
We Can Help You!
The bottom line is that you are never too old to start a noninvasive bunion treatment program – the worse your bunion gets, the harder it will be to address the pain with conservative treatment methods and the more likely surgery will become a consideration. So regardless of your age, if you suspect that you are developing a bunion, then you should make an appointment with Dr. Yuko Miyazaki right away and get to work on your conservative care! To schedule a visit at our Berkeley office, call (510) 647-3744 today or simply fill out our handy request form online.