Bunions are not just a cosmetic problem. It can cause pain and affect physical function because it limits the footwear we can wear and reduces the activity we can do.
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What is a bunion?
A bunion, known as Hallux Valgus, it is more than a bump on the side of the big toe. In reality, this deformity reflects changes in the bone frame from the front of the foot. When there is a bunion, the big toe rests on the second toe instead of pointing forward. This misaligns the bones and produces the image so typical of this ailment.
This deformity progresses slowly, that is, it does not appear overnight. It begins with the inclination of the big toe that, over the years, gradually modifies the angle of the bones and deforms the foot. Instead of growing in parallel, the big toes bend toward each other.
Women are more likely than men to develop bunions because they are more likely to wear narrow, tight, pointed shoes, which force the big toe inward and put more pressure on the first metatarsal.
The five causes that explain the appearance of a bunion
One of the factors that is associated with the appearance of bunions is the inheritance of bone structure. Although this deformity is not a hereditary defect in itself, the truth is that it is favored by the type of footprint when walking, which depends on the morphology of the body, which is inherited by genes. Therefore, it is not the bunion that is inherited but the type of foot.
There are other factors that add to the risk of bunion growth:
- Defective structures, such as flat feet. Not all people with flat feet have bunions, but there are structural and mechanical reasons why they develop more easily when the foot functions in a certain way.
- Excessively flexible ligaments Joints depend on ligaments for structural stability. When the ligaments are loose, it’s easy to see how weight-bearing joints, like those in the feet, lose some structural support.
- Congenital abnormalities such as metatarsus adductus.
- Arthritis. Diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis can destabilize the joints and accelerate their degeneration.
- It is also considered, as we have commented before, that the high heels or narrow favors the growth of bunions because they tend to push the big toe towards the other toes. They can aggravate existing ones or cause them to develop in people with a genetic risk. Poor foot mechanics, combined with other risk factors, increase the chances of developing bunions.
Bunions, do they hurt?
Most commonly, a bunion causes inflammation of the joint with redness, tenderness, and pain. In the most severe cases, the big toe can extend above or below the second toe, putting pressure on it.
If left untreated, a bunion can cause other conditions such as:
- Bursitis, in which the bursa, the fluid-filled sac that cushions the bones, tendons, and muscles near the joints, becomes inflamed and painful.
- Hammer toe, an abnormal curvature.
- Metatarsalgia, an inflammation of the foot.
- Deeper joint pain can also appear when the bunion has evolved a lot.
In addition to these symptoms, bunions are associated with difficulty walking normally or moving the big toe or the appearance of corns where the toes rub.
Because this joint at the base of the big toe bears much of the weight when walking, bunions can cause severe and constant pain. Also, the joint can become so stiff and sore that even putting on shoes can be a torment.
Correctors, do they help?
Braces and correctors cannot correct a bunion, recalls the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS). The Spanish Society of Medicine and Surgery of the Foot and Ankle (SEMCPT), which ensures that there are very few methods that prevent the progression of the deformity. The so-called “bunions”, he admits, “do not prevent progression and their use often causes pain.”
When this has already been developed, the only solution is surgery. Treatment depends on the severity of the pain, medical history, how quickly it progresses, etc.
Prevention is the best solution for bunions. The choice of footwear at this point is essential. Flat, supportive shoes that are wide enough for the toes are the best option. It is also advisable to do specific exercises in the event that the first symptoms of a bunion appear.
It can help, for example, to go a little barefoot at home because it activates the muscles of the toe joints. If, despite everything, bunions appear, they are permanent unless they are corrected with surgery, recommended especially when the pain is intense.
The goal is not only to relieve pain but also to return the finger to its correct position. Bones, ligaments, tendons and nerves are placed in the correct order and the characteristic lump disappears. The best treatment will be assessed by the podiatrist.
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