Bunions (also referred to as hallux valgus) are commonly noticed as a bump on the side of the toe. But underlying within the structure around the big toe there is much more going on than that. Over time the big toe leans slowly towards the second toe creating a bony visible bump on the outside of the toe. This in turn may also cause the second or even third toes to curl up, creating a hammer toe or hammer toes. Bunions are a progressive disorder and symptoms usually do not occur straight away but over a prolonged period of time due to stress of the joint. Usually as the angle of the bunion increases, the likelihood of getting pain or symptoms increases. Although there are some cases where symptoms never occur.
Some Causes of Bunions:
Bunions are most commonly caused from an inherited genetic flaw in the mechanics of the foot (i.e. the alignment of bones and how we walk). There is a common myth that shoes are the main cause of bunions and while this is not true, poor footwear can cause symptoms in a foot that already has a bunion. Symptoms can include pain and stiffness in and around the joint, burning sensations in the toe, inflammation or redness and on rare occasions numbness. Diagnosis is relatively easy in bunions however a plain film x-ray provides for a more accurate picture on the condition of the joint affected. As bunions get worse over time, it is important to get an early diagnosis to learn to manage and treat your bunion as best as you can. A biomechanical assessment from your physiotherapist can determine the best course of treatment early on.
There are a few options for treatment of bunions including physiotherapy, anti-inflammatory medications, icing and on rare occasions injecting and surgery. However, treatment is mainly non-surgical and most commonly intervention is through physiotherapy. Stretching of the calf muscles as well as joint mobilisations help, however in most cases correcting the underlying mechanical fault through an orthotic device is recommended. Surgery is usually indicated only if all other avenues are not alleviating the symptoms. Due to this, it is imperative to intervene if you notice or begin to experience any pain or symptoms.
What we can do for you:
Following your initial assessment at PhysioCare, you may be advised to undergo an orthotic assessment as orthotic devices are know to help alleviate the symptoms of bunions. These are a non-invasive approach as opposed to surgery. Treatments can also include traditional physiotherapy and icing. Exercises and stretches have also been proved to be effective in the treatment of bunions as they can stretch the associated and affected muscles while also mobilising the joints.
“Prevalence of hallux valgus in the general population: a systematic review and meta-analysis.” Sheree Nix, Michelle Smith* and Bill Vicenzino 2010 (http://www.bofas.org.uk/)