Hallux valgus is a condition that affects the joint at the base of the big toe. The condition is commonly called a bunion. The bunion actually refers to the bump that grows on the side of the first metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint. In reality, the condition is much more complex than a simple bump on the side of the toe. Interestingly, this condition almost never occurs in cultures that do not wear shoes. Pointed shoes, such as high heels and cowboy boots, can contribute to the development of hallux valgus. Wide shoes, with plenty of room for the toes, lessen the chances of developing the deformity and help reduce the irritation on the bunion if you already have one.
You are usually born with a foot type that leads to bunion formation. Flat feet with increased flexibility are most likely to form bunions. Abnormal mechanics increase the bunion formation over time. Other causes of bunions include osteoarthritis, gout, rheumatoid arthritis, trauma, and neurovascular disease.
SymptomsBunions may or may not cause symptoms. A frequent symptom is foot pain in the involved area when walking or wearing shoes that is relieved by resting. A bunion causes enlargement of the base of the big toe and is usually associated with positioning of the big toe toward the smaller toes. This leads to intermittent or chronic pain at the base of the big toe. Bunions that cause marked pain are often associated with swelling of the soft tissues, redness, and local tenderness. It is important to note that, in post-pubertal men and post-menopausal women, pain at the base of the big toe can be caused by gout and gouty arthritis that is similar to the pain caused by bunions.
Generally, observation is adequate to diagnose a bunion, as the bump is obvious on the side of the foot or base of the big toe. However, your physician may order X-rays that will show the extent of the deformity of the foot.
Non Surgical Treatment
Initial treatment of bunions may include wearing comfortable, well-fitting footwear (particularly shoes that conform to the shape of the foot and do not cause pressure areas) or the use of splints and orthotics (special shoe inserts shaped to your feet) to reposition the big toe. For bunions caused by arthritis, medications may help reduce pain and swelling. If nonsurgical treatment fails, your doctor may suggest surgery, which resolves the problem in nearly all persons. The goal of surgery is to relieve pain and correct as much deformity as possible. The surgery is not cosmetic and is not meant to improve the appearance of the foot. Other related procedures that may be used to help diagnose foot disorders include X-rays of the bone and foot.
As mentioned above, with mild cases, the bone is cut close to the big toe joint and shifted over into a correct position. The cut bone is held in placed with one or two surgical screws. With this procedure, just the top of the bone is moved over and the bottom of the bone remains in the same place. This technique is called the Austin bunionectomy and refers to type of bone cut that will be made by the Surgeon. There is, however, a limit on how far one can move the bone over with this technique. Its is generally thought that the cut bone should only be moved over a distance equal to half the width of the bone. In somes the bone may be moved over further.
If these exercises cause pain, don't overdo them. Go as far as you can without causing pain that persists. This first exercise should not cause pain, but is great for stimulating blood and lymphatic circulation. Do it as often as you can every day. Only do this exercise after confirming it is OK with your doctor. Lie on your back and lift up your legs above you. Wiggle your toes and feet. Eventually you may be able to rapidly shake your feet for a minute at a time. Use your fingers to pull your big toe into proper alignment. Stretch your big toe and the rest of your toes. Curl them under for 10 seconds, then relax and let them point straight ahead for 10 seconds. Repeat several times. Do this at least once a day, and preferably several times. Flex your toes by pressing them against the floor or a wall until they are bent back. Hold them for 10 seconds, then release. Repeat several times. Grip with your toes. Practice picking up an article of clothing with your toes, dropping it, and then picking it up again. Warm water. Soak your feet for 20 minutes in a bowl of warm water. Try doing the foot exercises while soaking, and also relax and rest your feet. Epsom salts. Add it to your warm foot bath soak.