A bunion is a bony bump that develops on the side of your big toe joint. It is a foot condition that forms when the big toe points inward (or towards the second toe). This forces the joint to jut out, causing discomfort and pain.
Many of today’s footwear does not fit properly over the protrusion, which puts pressure on the misaligned joint. Consequently, the fluid-filled sac that surrounds and cushions the joint, becomes inflamed, leading to stiffness and pain in the entire joint.
This painful foot deformity of your big toes can worsen if left untreated. Thus, it is advisable to consult your foot doctor at Adelaide Foot and Ankle if you are experiencing any discomfort or pain.
Are Bunions Painful?
Bunion pain has varying levels of intensity and frequency. Some people experience mild discomfort or occasional pain, whilst for others, it can be constant and severe.
More often than not, you may feel a dull ache or a sharp stabbing sensation. Walking or standing for long periods can aggravate the pain.
What Causes Painful Bunions?
Whilst the exact cause behind bunion formation has not been completely determined, people with certain foot types tend to be more prone to developing bunions.
Many experts believe that certain foot types, combined with prolonged pressure over the big toe joint, is the most common cause of bunion formation. Inherited foot structure problems such as flat feet can also increase the likelihood of developing this painful foot deformity.
Wearing shoes with too tight or narrow toe boxes can squeeze the toes together, gradually pushing the big toe out of alignment. Many women’s footwear such as high heels tend to push the toes further into the narrow tip, which is why women are more likely to develop bunions than men.
What makes bunion symptoms worse?
Again, the exact cause why bunions develop is not yet fully understood. But as experts at foot problems and foot care, we know several factors that can worsen your symptoms. There are a few habits and conditions that you might be unaware of that are contributing to your bunion.
Wearing Ill-fitting Footwear
It is not just high heels that can cause foot problems. Flip flops and flats have no arch support and can place too much pressure on your toe joint. Wearing ill-fitting shoes can cause your toes to rub against each other, causing bunions to develop.
Bunions are often linked to specific types of arthritis, conditions that cause joint inflammation. If you suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, you may also experience swelling and pain that can make your bunions worse.
Standing All Day
Standing all day or walking long distances can also worsen your bunion symptoms. If your job requires you to be on your feet all day, taking some time off to rest may be necessary.
Being overweight can add extra pressure to your toe joints, leading to more painful swelling in your bunion. Losing a few pounds and finding supportive, properly fitting shoes can also help to relieve your symptoms.
At Adelaide Foot and Ankle, we recommend making these lifestyle changes to improve your bunion symptoms and overall foot health.
How Do I Know if I Have a Bunion or Gout?
Image Source: Daniel Max/flickr
Gout can sometimes be mistaken for a bunion because they both have a similar symptom, which is a red, swollen and painful big toe joint. But whilst bunions often develop over a long period and cause gradually increasing pain, gout can often cause sudden and sharp pain.
Bunions generally appear on the side of the big toe joint, while gout most commonly affects the base of the big toe.
Bunions may result in swelling, redness and difficulty walking, whilst gout usually leads to sudden, severe pain, swelling and redness in the affected joint.
Wearing shoes that don’t fit well or high heels are typical causes of bunions. Gout is the result of high levels of uric acid in the blood.
The treatment options for bunions may include rest, ice, physical therapy or surgery. On the other hand, gout is often treated with medications that reduce inflammation and lower uric acid levels.
What Can You Do to Relieve Bunion Pain?
There are many ways you can do at home to relieve pain and reduce the risk of further damage to the affected foot. Here are some effective self-care methods for treating bunions:
Wear Comfortable Shoes
It’s essential to wear shoes with a wide-toe box. Tight, narrow shoes can increase the pressure on your toes, leading to further pain and misalignment. Shoes with a wide toe box provide enough room for your toes to move and can help reduce the pain.
Use Bunion Pads
Bunion pads are small cushions that can provide extra padding and support. They are placed inside your shoes to reduce pain and friction.
Take Anti-inflammatory Medication
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen or naproxen, can reduce inflammation and alleviate bunion pain. Be sure to follow the recommended dosage and consult a healthcare professional before taking such medications.
Applying ice to the affected area can help reduce inflammation and numb the pain. Wrap an ice pack in a towel and place it on the bunion for 10-15 minutes a few times daily.
Stretching and strengthening the muscles and ligaments in your foot can improve mobility and alleviate the big toe joint stiffness you’re experiencing. Try some exercises such as toe stretches, calf stretches and toe raises.
Shoe inserts can help improve your bunion symptoms by keeping your toes in proper alignment. Orthotics are an effective and non-invasive way to address various foot problems. With the use of orthotics, you may experience a reduction in pain and discomfort associated with your bunion. You should consult a podiatrist to help you find the right orthotics for your specific foot condition.
These methods can help alleviate your foot pain and prevent further damage to your toes. Seek advice from your podiatrist if your symptoms do not improve.
Here are more self-care tips to manage your symptoms effectively:
- Use toe spacers
- Soothe your feet by soaking them in warm water and Epsom salt
- Elevate your feet
- Relax your feet with a massage or a tennis ball rolled under your foot
- Rest your foot when needed
For mild cases, these self-care methods are often all that’s needed. But if your symptoms have become worse, it may be necessary to seek help from your podiatrist.
How We Treat Bunions
If you feel that self-care is not helping, we are here to assist you. Depending on your symptoms, we may suggest:
In case surgery is needed, please be assured that Dr Rob Hermann and his team have the expertise and experience to fix your hallux valgus deformity and help you recover quickly.
Excruciating Bunion Pain? Reach Out to Adelaide Foot and Ankle
If you have a noticeable bump at the base of your big toe and are experiencing pain, we encourage you to seek medical attention immediately to ensure that your foot problem is properly diagnosed and treated. By addressing the issue early on, you can prevent any potential complications from arising in the future.
Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any further questions or concerns regarding foot and ankle problems.
FAQs About Bunions
1. Do bunions hurt when you press on them?
When bunions start to develop, they might not cause you any pain. But sooner or later, you might start to notice some changes in the affected area. It could become swollen, red, shiny and tender to the touch. Sometimes, a callus may develop when the first and second toes rub against each other for long periods.
2. What causes bunion pain to flare up?
If you have a bunion, the skin over it can rub against the inside of your shoes, which might make the tissues around your big toe joint thicken and become inflamed. This can result in swelling, discomfort and even pain.
3. When should I be concerned about bunion pain?
Conservative therapies are usually the first line of treatment for bunions. However, if bunion pain persists despite the initial treatments, then bunion surgery (bunionectomy) may be recommended.
4. At what age do bunions develop?
Bunions can develop early in life, typically in children entering adolescence, which is between 10 and 15 years old. Tween and teens develop a type of bunion known as juvenile or adolescent hallux valgus.
5. Can a bunion go away?
Whilst they don’t go away on their own, there are treatment options that can help alleviate discomfort. Over-the-counter bunion pads can act as a cushion in the affected area and may relieve pain.