Bunions: Hallux Valgus

Diagram of the formation of a bunionA bunion (hallux valgus) is not just a bump on the foot. A bunion is a structural change in the foot, resulting in a bone deformity, which looks like a bump on the foot. As seen in the image on the right, the long bone at the inside of the foot moves toward the inside of the body medially, while the big toe (great toe) moves toward the little toes. This shifting of bones is what causes the development of a bunion.

Bunions are caused by a combination of factors. The most common contributing factors are genetics, foot type and shoes. Although tight, narrow shoes don’t cause bunions, they definitely contribute to the development in some foot types. Individuals with more flexible and flat feet are more likely to develop bunions due to an imbalance in the foot.

Treatments for bunions include custom made orthotics, padding, splints, wider supportive shoes and anti-inflammatory medications. If these steps do not work and the pain limits daily activities, recreation or job activities, then surgery may be indicated. A bunion is not just a bump on the side of the foot, which means that it’s rare that surgery involves removing only the bump. Generally, surgery involves moving the bones back into place. The long bone, called the metatarsal, is essentially broken, shifted to the side and the big toe is moved back into place. Screws are used to stabilize the bone after it is broken. Recovery time involves about 4-6 weeks in a surgical shoe and the toe can be stiff and swollen for 4-6 months following surgery.

More information on bunions, bunion treatments and bunion surgery.

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