A Bunion, also known as hallux valgus, is a joint deformity of the big toe. In this condition, a bony bump forms as a result of a drift of the big toe towards the second one and forces the joint base of the big toe to stick out, making the forefoot appear wider. The causes of bunions are not completely clear but genetics, the shape of your foot, the type of shoes and the way you walk can be predisposing factors for this condition.
The function of the human foot is to support and control the direction of the body weight as it falls forwards during the stance phase of locomotion (Rolian et al., 2009). In a normal walk, the heel strike is followed by a transfer of the weight across the outside of the foot as you progress – falling inwards around the end of your forefoot. The hallux/big toe, is in charge of controlling that transfer of the weight and guide the bodyweight forward, pushing into the ground. This mechanism causes the foot to deform and absorb energy, making the walking mechanism more efficient and achieving the low impact performance.
A bunion not only produces pain and discomfort but also disrupts and damages the joint affecting the foot function negatively. The bunion creates abnormal pressure on the big toe affecting your balance and gait. As a bunion gets progressively worse, movement comes along with pain which can make people adjust their gait to adapt and compensate to avoid the painful sensation. This can make you predisposed to other injuries like metatarsalgia, knee or hip pain or even lead to an increase in the risk of falls when the deformation is quite severe.
It’s best to start treatment for a bunion as early as possible. The prevention of the misaligned of the big toe in the initial stage will be crucial to slow down the disruption and damage.
Options of treatment:
- Correct footwear: One of the simplest and easier way of prevention and management of the pain. A lot of women use pointy shoes for fashion, promoting the deviation of the big toe.
- Bunion pads: These can help give some protection from the pressure of the shoes.
- Bunion toe corrector: These are in different shapes and materials. It can help to slightly restore the toe position and help with the mechanics of gait, avoiding the compensations and helping with pain.
- Medication: The use of painkiller can help dealing with the pain in early stages but will not solve the problem.
- Surgery: There are different types of surgeries such as Osteotomy (cut the big toe joint and realign it to a normal position), Exostectomy (remove your bunion from the joint without performing an alignment) or Arthrodesis (replacement of the damaged joint with screws or metal plates to correct the deformity).
- Exercises: To strengthen the foot and correct your posture for better positioning of your feet when walking or standing. Here’s a few good exercises on our Instagram page.
If your pain is getting worse and you have problems with balance or gait, it’s best to consult a specialist. They will be able to assess and address your problem in a personalised way.