What Can I Do About Bunions?

While not life-threatening, bunions can still make everyday activities painful. If you're suffering in silence or avoiding obligations and events that involve standing or walking it's time to get a proper diagnosis and find out about your treatment options. 

Here at the Scheffel Foot Center in Worcester and Clinton, Massachusetts, Dr. John Scheffel treats a variety of foot and ankle issues, including bunions. We realize the important role that healthy feet play in your active lifestyle, and we want to help alleviate your bunion woes to get you back up to speed. Dr. Scheffel shares this information about bunions and the variety of ways we treat them.

Bunions explained

A bunion occurs when the big toe pushes against the other toes. In addition to causing a bony bump that forms on the inside of the foot at the base of the big toe, it can also cause problems with the second and third toes, such as corns and the formation of hammertoes. Even the ball of the foot is at risk of calluses and discomfort from shifting weight off the big toe. 

Bunion symptoms can include swelling or redness around the big toe joint as well as persistent or intermittent pain. There can also be decreased movement of the big toe.

Causes and risk factors

While the exact cause of bunions is unknown, one theory includes a genetic component related to having a certain foot shape and structure. Flat feet, low arches, and loose joints and tendons all make the risk of developing a bunion greater, as does the shape of the first metatarsal bone.

People who stand or walk a lot in their jobs, such as teachers and nurses, are more likely to get bunions, as are ballet dancers whose feet are continually stressed. Foot injuries and the hormonal changes of pregnancy can also contribute to their formation. If you have arthritis, it may predispose you to bunions, as it damages the cartilage within the joint.

Wearing high heels may play a role as well because the toes are squeezed together and the body's weight tips forward. Women are ten times more likely to experience bunions than men, and this may in part be due to this type of shoe.

Treatments for bunions

Typically treatment begins conservatively with lifestyle changes, such as using ice and taking anti-inflammatory medications. Avoiding high heels and wearing appropriate footwear with a wide toe box is key, too. Many people also find relief with bracing, padding, or orthotics. These lifestyle modifications and conservative treatments can help reduce the pain but don’t actually fix the issue. 

If we’ve tried all of these treatments, but the bunion is severe and continues to disrupt your life, Dr. Scheffel may recommend surgical correction with a bunionectomy. During this procedure, the joint is pulled back into its original position, and pins or screws are used to keep it in place. A bunionectomy is an outpatient procedure, meaning you can go home the same day.

If the pain of a bunion is keeping you from the activities you love, call or click today to book an appointment with Dr. Scheffel to find out what treatment is right for you.

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