The knobby protrusion on the side of your big toe, medically known as hallux valgus and commonly referred to as a bunion, is more than a cosmetic concern. Bunions aren’t a form of callus or corn; they’re a deformity of the metatarsophalangeal joint (MTJ). The MTJ forms the union between the metatarsal (first long bone of the foot) and the phalanx (first long bone of the big toe).
Bunions arise when the metatarsal shifts out of alignment, moving toward your inner foot, away from the arch. That motion pushes your phalanx toward your second toe.
Whether your bunion is hereditary, caused by wearing tight shoes, or a medical condition, it will worsen over time. The podiatrists at Alliance Foot & Ankle Specialists in Grapevine and Keller, Texas, recommend treating a bunion before it becomes a problem.
Not sure that bunion treatment is worth your time? Here are six reasons why you shouldn’t delay:
1. Your Shoes Won’t Fit
Look in your closet. Whether it’s filled with stylish shoes that you paid top-dollar for, or bargains that took some ingenuity to find, you may have to say goodbye to every single pair. As your bunion continues to grow and push your toes out of alignment, your feet won’t fit your shoes.
Not only might you need to throw out the shoes you currently own, shopping for new ones won’t be the same treasure hunt you enjoyed in pre-bunion days.
Ever wonder why some older people eschew shoes for the same old athletic footwear day after day? Foot problems—including bunions—severely limit the types of shoes that will fit your feet.
2. Walking Might Become Painful
Untreated bunions progress, pushing the toes further out of alignment. The friction of the toes rubbing against each other causes calluses and corns to form between the toes. Thick, tough calluses tend to be painless, but corns have a soft inner core and can hurt.
As the MTJ worsens over time, the phalanx crowds your other toes. The bunion, too, may rub against the side of your shoe, becoming scuffed and sore. When you try to compensate for the misalignment and pain, you throw the rest of your foot and even your entire body out of alignment.
Switching to wider-toed shoes can help, as can wearing bunion pads. But bunions don’t get better on their on own.
3. You Could Get Bursitis
Your deformed MTJ can rub against tissues inside your joint, such as the fluid-filled pads known as bursae. Bursae act as cushions that support the tendons and muscles.
Stress on the bursae can trigger a painful inflammation known as bursitis. If bursitis doesn’t respond to medical treatment, you may need surgery.
4. You Could Develop Metatarsalgia
Metatarsalgia refers to painful inflammation at the ball of your foot. Metatarsalgia develops gradually and worsens if not treated. Walking, running, and standing for long periods increase the pain.
If your Alliance Foot & Ankle Specialists expert diagnoses metatarsalgia, you may need orthotic devices, metatarsal pads, or ultrasound and passive range-of-motion treatments.
5. You Might Get Arthritis and Bone Spurs
Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage between your joints wears away and your bones rub against one another. The first sign that your bunion developed into arthritis is tenderness and pain in your toe or joint. The pain may radiate to other toes or to the arch of your foot as you walk.
When your toe develops arthritis, it may even ache after long periods of sitting or when awakening in the morning. You may have difficulty bending your toe.
The grinding of your bones against one another can prompt your body to try to repair the damage by producing more bone, which results in painful bone spurs.
Steroids, orthotics, and physical therapy may improve arthritis. You can take anti-inflammatory medications to control the pain and swelling.
6. You Could Cause Hammertoe
Large bunions can push your toes so far out of alignment that the second, third, and fourth toes curve downward, like the head of a hammer. Hammertoes may eventually “freeze” so that you can’t move the last joint. Hammertoes may respond to physical therapy but could require surgery.
Take Care of That Bunion
If you have a bunion, come to Alliance Foot & Ankle Specialists for an evaluation. If your bunion is small, our podiatrists may recommend lifestyle changes, such as more comfortable shoes. We can also splint or tape your toes or provide custom-orthotics that keep your MTJ in proper alignment.
Large, painful bunions may need surgery. Treating your bunion before it hurts or causes complications ultimately saves you time, money, and pain. If you have a bunion, contact our podiatrists at Alliance Foot & Ankle Specialists by phone or online form.