Though a bunion is often described as a painful bump, this condition is much more complex than a simple bump on the side of the toe. X-rays show the true nature of the deformity and are used to help in the decision making process. Ranges of motion of joints associated with the toe are also performed to assess the deformity. There are many procedures for correcting a bunion and choosing the right one based on the examination increases the chance of success. The procedure performed on one person may not be the procedure required to give another a good result. In general, more severe bunion deformities require more extensive surgery and more extensive post-operative limitations. It is very important to note that the same instability and incorrect motion that causes a bunion also causes degeneration of the joint surfaces (osteoarthritis). Correction of the bunion cannot repair the damage done within the joint and continued pain from that separate process may occur. Realigning the joint may slow the damage within the joint and improve motion, but it may not alleviate all pain.
While the precise cause is not known, there seem to be inherited (genetic) factors that lead to abnormal foot function like overpronation that can predispose to the development of bunions. This is especially common when bunions occur in younger individuals. This abnormal biomechanics can lead to instability of the metatarsal phalangeal joint and muscle imbalance resulting in the deformity. Although shoe gear doesn't directly cause a bunion, it can certainly make the bunion painful and swollen. Other less common causes of bunion deformities include trauma (sprains, fractures, and nerve injuries), neuromuscular disorders (polio or Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease) and limb-length discrepancies (one leg shorter than the other) where the longer leg develops the bunion.
symptoms and problems caused by bunions include pain. You may then have difficulty walking due to pain. Inflammation and swelling at the base of the toe. This sometimes becomes infected. The foot may become so wide that it can be difficult to find wide enough shoes. You may get arthritis in the big toe. The second toe can become deformed. In severe cases, the big toe can push your second toe up out of place.
Physical examination typically reveals a prominence on the inside (medial) aspect of the forefoot. This represents the bony prominence associated with the great toe joint ( the medial aspect of the first metatarsal head). The great toe is deviated to the outside (laterally) and often rotated slightly. This produces uncovering of the joint at the base of the big toe (first metatarsophalangeal joint subluxation). In mild and moderate bunions, this joint may be repositioned back to a neutral position (reduced) on physical examination. With increased deformity or arthritic changes in the first MTP joint, this joint cannot be fully reduced. Patients may also have a callus at the base of their second toe under their second metatarsal head in the sole of the forefoot. Bunions are often associated with a long second toe.
Non Surgical Treatment
Detecting and treating bunions can relieve many of the symptoms associated with this condition. Doctors often consider whether the condition requires non-surgical or surgical treatment. The decision is based on the severity of the symptoms. Because bunions often get worse over time, early detection and proper treatment are very important. Some non-surgical methods to reduce the symptoms related to bunions include cushioning the area with padding or tape, taking medication to relieve pain and inflammation, using physiotherapy to reduce pain and related symptoms (e.g., ultrasound, whirlpool baths, joint mobilization), wearing custom orthotics to provide better movement and stability of the foot, wearing well-fitted comfortable shoes that are not too tight (if your shoes used to fit but now are too tight around the bunion area, you may be able to have them stretched in this area), using a special splint at night to decrease the amount the toe angles towards the other toes. When non-surgical methods do not provide relief, surgery may be needed. During surgery, the doctor will remove the tissue or bone in the area of the bunion and attempt to straighten the big toe, and may join the bones of the affected joint.
Orthopaedic surgeons use many different surgical procedures to treat bunions. The common goal of these procedures is to realign the joint, relieve pain, and correct deformity. These procedures include repair of the Tendons and Ligaments Around the Big Toe. These tissues may be too tight on one side and too loose on the other, creating an imbalance that causes the big toe to drift toward the others. Often combined with an osteotomy, this procedure shortens the loose tissues and lengthens the tight ones. Removal of the damaged joint surfaces, followed by the insertion of screws, wires, or plates to hold the surfaces together until it heals. Used for patients with severe bunions, severe arthritis, and when other procedures have failed. Removal of the bump on the toe joint, used only for an enlargement of the bone with no drifting of the big toe. This procedure is seldom used because it rarely corrects the cause of the bunion. Removal of the damaged portion of the joint, used mainly for patients who are older, have had previous bunion surgery, or have severe arthritis. This creates a flexible "scar" joint. The surgical cutting and realignment of the joint. Your orthopaedic surgeon will choose the procedure best suited to your condition.