Bunions: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment

Your foot is the foundation of your ability to move, walk, run, jump and stand. Each of your feet and ankles has 29 different bones, accounting for over 25 percent of the bones in your body. The American Podiatric Medical Association found that 77 percent of people over 18 years suffer from foot pain.1

Failure to walk and run with proper form and posture can result in tight muscles, changing the form and function of the joints in your foot. Flip flops, tight shoes and high heels can trigger changes in your foot structure leading to pain and deformity.

Simple exercises and proper footwear can make a big difference in the potential development or progression of bunions. By the time you reach age 50, your feet will likely have traveled 75,000 miles.2 No wonder so many people experience so much discomfort and pain.

What’s a Bunion?

Bunions are an anatomical deformity possibly resulting from a congenital structural defect or may be initiated from poor foot function and tight musculature. Constricted muscles and tendons exert a strong force on the joints of your foot.

An area often exhibiting deformity from those forces is the joint between your big toe and your foot. This is where bunions commonly form. Bunions may also form on the other side of your foot, in the joint between your little toe and the long bones of your foot.

Thickened skin may also develop over the bump. This area may become swollen and inflamed, contributing to your pain and discomfort from bony changes.

When the bunion forms between the base of your big toe and the first metatarsal bone (long bone of your foot), it creates an imbalance in how your weight is distributed over your foot joints.

This increases the deformity and the discomfort. When the bunion forms between your little toe and the fifth metatarsal it’s called a bunionette.

How Bunions Form

Although most bunions develop in adulthood, bunions may develop in adolescence as well. Among adolescents, they most frequently occur in girls between 10 and 15 years of age. Women are also at greater risk for developing a bunion or bunionette than men.3

There are several factors that increase your risk of developing a bunion. You have control over some of these factors, and others are a function of your bone structure and development.4

  • Wearing high heels
  • Wearing narrow shoes
  • Arthritis, notably rheumatoid arthritis
  • Foot injuries
  • Feet don’t develop properly before birth
  • Uneven weight bearing, which makes a joint unstable
  • Tight muscles and tendons
  • Inherited foot type

Each of these factors places your foot in an unnatural position. Consistent use and weight bearing on your foot in a poor position may encourage your muscles to become less flexible. A lack of flexibility will increase your risk of a bunion deformity.

Dr. Georgeanne Botek, head of the section of Podiatry and medical director of Cleveland Clinic’s Diabetic Foot Clinic, says, “Bunions often run in families but they can be the result of the way we walk or the shoes we wear.”5

What You’ll Feel

Before you experience symptoms, you’ll often see the changes in your foot. A bump will begin to form on the outside of your foot just below your big toe or your little toe in the case of a bunionette. Once the bunion grows larger you may experience more symptoms including:6

  • Pain over the skin where the bunion rubs on your shoes
  • Pain and soreness over the bony area
  • Numbness around the bunion
  • Burning sensation
  • Swelling at the joint where the bunion formed, especially after being on your feet
  • Thicker skin over the base of the affected toe
  • Redness over the skin from rubbing on your shoes or originating deeper from inflammation at the joint
  • New corns or calluses on other toes as your weight is poorly distributed
  • Movement restriction in the affected joint

These symptoms are frustrating, painful and restrict the type of footwear you may be comfortable wearing. Without treatment and care, your bunion may grow so large that even wide-toe shoes are not wide enough to accommodate the deformity.

What Are Your Options for Treatment?

There are several different options for treatment. Personally, I believe that surgery is the very last resort you should consider. Although a surgical procedure may affect the anatomical structure, it will not address the underlying condition that caused the bunion in the first place.

I have a bunion I’ve been treating for years. Treatments have reduced my pain and discomfort and almost stopped the progression of the changes to my foot.

Bunions are permanent unless you have them surgically corrected. However, with other less-invasive treatments, you can reduce the symptoms of pain and discomfort, slow or stop the progression and improve the flexibility of your foot and joints. Ohio podiatrist Dr. Dina Stock told the Cleveland Clinic:

“For many people it may simply be a matter of wearing properly fitting shoes. Be sure to choose low-heeled, comfortable shoes that provide plenty of space for your toes and the widest part of your foot.”7

7 Options for Treating Bunions at Home

Try these methods at home to reduce inflammation, improve the flexibility of your foot and reduce the stress over your bunion.8

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See also:
Sole Exposed
High Heels, High Risk

Sources and References
1 New Survey Reveals Majority of Americans Suffer from Foot Pain | Press Release | Media Room | APMA. (2016). Apma.org.
2 Foot Health | Learn About Feet | APMA. (2016). Apma.org. Retrieved 15 May 2016
3, 4, 6 CRNP, L. & CRNP, L. (2016). Bunions: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment. Medical News Today.
5 7 Ways to Ease Your Bunions Without Surgery – Health Essentials from Cleveland Clinic. Health Essentials from Cleveland Clinic
7, 8 7 Ways to Ease Your Bunions Without Surgery – Health Essentials from Cleveland Clinic. Health Essentials from Cleveland Clinic