Do you ever wonder what that bump on the side of your big toe is? That small “bump” is referred to as a bunion in the medical community. Bunions are defined as a bump on the metatarsophalangeal joint, also referred to as the MTP joint, located at the base of your big toe. Bunions occur when the bone or tissue at the big toe joint moves out of alignment. Your toe is then forced to bend toward your other toes, causing this painful bunion formation on the foot.
This joint is responsible for carrying most of your body weight when you are doing everyday activities- like walking, running, and other physical activity. A bunion is not something to be taken lightly. If untreated, they can cause extreme pain and interfere with the everyday activities you enjoy. The MPJ joint can become consistently sore and stiff. Many find it difficult or impossible to wear shoes. There are also cases of a bunion forming on the outside of the foot at the base of the little toe. This is referred to as a “bunionette” or “tailor’s bunion” and will also cause pain, soreness, and stiffness
How do I end up with that bump? Bunions form when your normal balance of force on the joints and tendons of your feet become disrupted. Any disruption, no matter how small, can cause a bunion formation. This disruption can lead to instability in the joint, causing deformity. It takes years of abnormal movement and disruption to the joint at the base of the toe to cause this deformity.
How can you tell if you have a bunion? Only a podiatrist will be able to confirm if you have a bunion formation. However, there are symptoms of a bunion formation that you may notice.
If the formation becomes untreatable, you should be seeking a podiatrist’s attention. However, identifying a bunion early in development is important if you want to avoid surgery. The main goal of early treatment is to relieve the pressure on the bunion and stop any further progression of the deformity. Bunions will become larger and painful if untreated, making it more difficult to treat non-surgically.
A podiatrist may recommend many different options depending on the severity of the formation.
Surgical options when treating a bunion formation are used when early interventional treatments fail or the deformity progresses too far for more conservative options. Podiatric surgery can become necessary to repair and relieve the pressure of the toe joint.
There are many surgical options available, and your podiatrist will discuss these with you. Surgery will remove the bony prominence and realign the toe joint to it’s normal position. This surgery is called a simple bunionectomy, which means “removal of bunion”. This option can be used for less severe formations.
More severe formations can require a more complex procedure where cutting the bone and realigning the joint is involved. The recovery time for this procedure is several weeks and some swelling and discomfort is to be expected. Pain is managed through the use of medications prescribed by a podiatrist. Closely following all postoperative instructions discussed between you and your podiatrist plays a very crucial role in your recovery.
It is important to see your podiatrist when you notice the first signs or symptoms of a bunion since early treatment can stop or slow any further deformity.