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Bunions and Bunion Pain

What are Bunions?

A bunion is a painful deformity of the joint where the bones of the foot and the big toe meet. The enlargement of the bone and tissue around this joint is known as a bunion or hallux valgus. Symptoms of a bunion include a swollen bursal sac, a bony deformity on the side of the great toe joint, tender and swollen tissues surrounding the deformity, and displacement of the big toe, which may turn inward.

Bunions and bunionettes diagram

Intermittent or chronic pain can result from bunions and the high rate of use makes it difficult to rest and allow the agitation of the bunion to subside. The bone deformity or the enlargement of the big toe joint will be permanent, unless corrected with bunion surgery. The swelling of bursal sac and the soft tissues surrounding the bunion can be reduced greatly if rest and proper care is taken.

Additional bone formation is the main source of the bunion, often concurring with misalignment of the big toe. Bunions can also occur on the smallest toe, the 5th or pinky toe, which is far less common and known as a tailor’s bunion.

Treatments for Bunions

There is a wide rage of treatment options for those who suffer from bunions. If the bunion is mild and does not require bunion surgery, resting the foot and avoiding excessive exercise or walking will help. Wearing shoes that have a wider toe opening, including sandals, can relieve the rubbing and irritation that comes along with more confining shoes. High-heeled shoes should be avoided as they push the big toe outward and can inflame the joint of a bunion. Anti-inflammatory medications (aspirin, ibuprofen, etc.) usually ease inflammation and target pain as well. If the bunion does become inflamed and irritated, application of an ice pack can reduce swelling and pain.

If the inflammation because excessive, cortisone can be injected at the site of the bunion to reduce the swelling at the joint of the big toe.

Bunions Surgery

Bunion surgery is an option for those who have persisting pain and the condition is worsening. Surgery on a bunion can correct the bone deformity, increase function and relieve pain. Bunion surgery should not be considered lightly, the surgery is often successful but there is a rate of surgical failure. The big toe can move back into its previous place if the patient does not follow instructions, which will result in the pain returning. The surgical failure for bunions can be reduced greatly if activity restrictions are followed and proper footwear is worn after surgery.

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