If someone squeezes your hand too hard in a handshake, your fingers get squished together and you can’t wait until they’re free to go back to their normal positions. When we squeeze into our shoes every day, the same thing can happen to our toes. They can get crowded together, and not able to spread out until we kick off our shoes. However, if they are packed together like a can of sardines over and over again, they could eventually stay that way!
The Basics on Bunions
If your big toe can’t stop snuggling up to your others, the joint is forced outward, causing a bony protrusion. The resulting bump at the base of the toe is called a bunion. Excessive pressure and friction can then cause pain in your big toe joint, making walking and even just wearing shoes uncomfortable. Once formed, this deformity does not go away. Conservative treatments can slow the progression and help to ease discomfort, however, you may want to consider bunion surgery if pain becomes chronic.
What’s Behind the Bump
You could blame your parents for your bunion, since you may be prone to the problem due to an inherited foot structure. Underlying conditions, such as arthritis, can also cause the deformity, as can injuries and certain occupations that put excessive stress on your feet. One of the most common reasons behind the painful bump, though, is poorly fitting shoes. Footwear that is too tight—especially high-heels with pointy toes—can force the bones in your feet into unnatural positions. In addition, pressure is unevenly distributed, and this imbalance affects the stability of your big toe joint, eventually molding it in to a knob that juts out beyond your normal foot shape.
This bulge at the base of your toe may be red, sore, and swollen. The skin may thicken and corns or calluses could develop if toes begin to overlap. You may experience restricted movement of your big toe, as well as intermittent or even persistent pain. Finding comfortable footwear can also prove to be difficult.
Babying Your Bunion
To relieve pain and pressure, wear shoes that offer plenty of toe room and comfort—and low heels! You can tape and splint your toe into its proper position, then place special padding on the area to alleviate pressure and stress. Ice packs and anti-inflammatory medicine can help with pain relief as well. Orthotic shoe inserts are also helpful since they provide additional support and cushioning, as well as distribute weight evenly.
Back to its Proper Position
If conservative treatments do not relieve your pain, surgically returning your toe to its proper position is possible. Procedures vary according to the severity of the condition, but most involve removing swollen tissue surrounding the big toe joint, removing part of the bone and realigning it, or possibly even fusing the bones in place. Whichever bunion surgery you choose, remember, there is no guarantee that the condition will not return. You must strictly adhere to instructions if you don’t want the bump to return and bother you again.
If you are noticing a bony protrusion at the base of your big toe, contact us at Carolina Podiatry. We can help you slow the progression and live an active healthy life despite your bump! Just call (803) 285-1411 for our Lancaster, SC, location or (803) 548-FEET (3338) to reach our Fort Mill office. Brandon Percival, DPM, Julie Percival, DPM, and William Harris IV, DPM, are here to help you with all of your foot care needs.