Which Treatment Option Is Best for Your Bunion?

A bunion -- also known as hallux valgus -- looks like a growth on the bottom outside edge of your big toe, but that bony protrusion is actually the base of your metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint that’s shifted out of alignment. Conventional wisdom used to be that bunions were caused by shoes that cramp your toes together and push your big toe joint toward the outer part of your foot. 

Unfortunately, recent research has revealed that most bunions are a genetic deformity that can’t be cured by switching to comfier shoes. And if you don’t treat bunions, they get worse over time.

Bunions are a common condition, affecting up to a third of women and men in the United States. Women are more likely to suffer from a bunion than men are. 

Although no genes for bunions have yet been identified, you’re more likely to have bunions if someone else in your family has them. Usually, bunions don’t develop until you’re an adult. However, some children are born with them (a condition known as congenital hallux valgus) or develop them in later childhood (juvenile hallux valgus).

Though some bunions are nothing more than an aesthetic problem, if your bunion hurts or makes it difficult to walk or find shoes that fit, podiatrist Michael J. Frazier doesn’t want you to suffer anymore. At The Frazier Foot and Ankle Center in Cypress, Texas, he offers a variety of bunion treatments -- including a type of surgery known as a bunionectomy -- that are based on your symptoms and the severity of your bunions. If you’d like a permanent fix for your bunions, then a bunionectomy is your only option.

Keep small bunions from getting worse 

When your bunions are small, you may only have a little discomfort. In a case like this, switching to shoes with a wider toe box may give your toes the room they need to spread out.  Wearing pointy shoes doesn’t cause bunions, but tight footwear can worsen a bunion if you already have one. 

Dr. Frazier recommends roomy-toed, flat-heeled shoes. High heels put too much pressure on your MTP joint. They also cramp your toes, increasing your risk for developing painful calluses and corns.

If you have small bunions and minimal discomfort, he might also recommend customized orthotics to straighten out your toes and keep your foot in healthy alignment. You can place the orthotics in your normal, well-fitting (wide-toed and flat) shoes and sports shoes.

Dr. Frazier takes 3D digital images of your foot and then devises a treatment plan that he sends to the orthotics lab. The lab creates a platform for your foot that gently shifts your MTP joint into better alignment, keeps your toes safely apart from one another, and distributes your weight throughout your foot. Custom orthotics help you walk more comfortably and also make it less likely that you’ll stumble or lose your balance.

Depending on your needs, Dr. Frazier may recommend orthotic shoes that are designed to be extra roomy and supportive. Some specialized shoes for bunions look like normal running shoes, hiking sandals, or ballet flats. Dr. Frazier helps you choose a pair that gives you the support you need while still looking fashionable.

Manage inflammation

If your bunion is sensitive and inflamed, it may still rub against your shoe, even if you have a roomy toe box. Dr. Frazier can prescribe anti-inflammatory medications to reduce swelling and discomfort. The anti-inflammatories also subdue arthritis pain; if you have arthritis, you’re more likely to develop a bunion in the first place. 

To keep you comfortable, he may also recommend cushioning your bunion with store-bought bunion pads made of moleskin or silicone gel. You can also increase circulation to your foot by massaging it or using hot or cold foot baths. 

If your pain is severe, Dr. Frazier may administer a cortisone shot. However, you shouldn’t use cortisone long term. The only way to eliminate bunion pain for good is to eliminate the bunion.

Surgery cures bunions

If your bunion is painful, large, and unattractive, or it affects the way you walk, Dr. Frazier recommends a bunionectomy. Using a minimally invasive arthroscopic approach, Dr. Frazier makes just a couple of small incisions in your foot and then corrects the bunion by either:

If you have a bunionectomy, you need to stay off your foot while it heals and use an assistive device for about 6-8 weeks. You may need to limit your activities for the next several months and also undergo physical therapy to help your toe gain strength and flexibility. You may also need to wear custom-designed orthotics to keep your newly aligned toe in its proper position.

Don’t suffer from bunions anymore. Contact us today for orthotics or a bunionectomy so you can feel comfortable in and out of shoes again.

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