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  • Writer's pictureDr. Ndidi Ufondu, DPM

Understanding the Causes of Bunions and How to Prevent Them

Bunions, those peculiar bumps on the side of the big toe joint, have long perplexed both ordinary folks and even the most glamorous of celebrities. Yes, even the likes of Oprah Winfrey, whose immense fortune surpasses the $3 billion mark, find themselves grappling with the discomfort of bunions. These unsightly deformities pay no heed to age, gender, or social status, affecting anyone who carries certain risk factors or indulges in certain habits. In this article, we will discuss the causes of bunions, how to prevent them, and unveiling a self-testing methodology for these pesky foot companions.

BruceBlaus, CC BYSA 4.0 <>,

via Wikimedia Commons

What are bunions?

Bunions, intriguing deformities of the big toe joint, materialize as a result of aberrant pressure or misalignment within the foot's intricate network of bones, ligaments, and tendons. This puzzling phenomenon sees the big toe contort inward, forcefully nudging the joint outward and forming an unsightly protrusion. The ensuing bump may become inflamed, displaying shades of redness, swelling, and tenderness. Occasionally, fluid filled sacs known as bursae offer solace by cushioning the joint, but they too may rebel and trigger additional discomfort by succumbing to infection.

While bunions do not discriminate, they exhibit a peculiar fondness for women, older individuals, and those graced with specific foot shapes or conditions. Several factors increase the chances of developing bunions, including:

  1. The confinement of feet within tight, narrow, or high heeled shoes, squeezing the toes into an uncomfortable gathering.

  2. Flat feet, low arches, or loose joints, ushering in foot instability with open arms.

  3. A family legacy of bunions or other foot tribulations, highlighting the hereditary nature of these enigmatic protrusions.

  4. Underlying inflammatory conditions like arthritis or gout, which instigate turmoil within the joints.

  5. A history of foot injury or trauma, successfully reshaping the foot's structural integrity.

  6. The possession of congenital foot deformities or abnormalities, adding a touch of peculiarity to the bunion equation.

A woman holding her feet in pain

Imani Clovis imaniclovis, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

How to self-test for bunions

Curiosity beckons, compelling us to embark on a journey of self-discovery, to fathom whether these elusive bunions have taken up residence on our very own feet. Fear not, for we bring you a simple self-test, which requires nothing more than a ruler and a trusty pen. Observe the following steps:

  1. Position yourself, barefoot, upon a flat surface, ensuring that your feet stand parallel, shoulder width apart.

  2. Armed with your pen, proceed to mark the tip of your big toe and the base of the corresponding joint on both feet.

  3. Take hold of your ruler and measure the distance between these two pivotal points on each foot.

  4. Engage in a comparative analysis, scrutinizing the measurements of both feet. Should one foot exhibit a discrepancy greater than 0.5 cm in relation to the other, it may signal the presence of a bunion.

Alternatively, embrace the art of observation, for the eyes hold great power in unraveling this foot enigma. Cast a discerning gaze from varying angles, searching for signs of deformity, such as:

  1. A visible protuberance adorning the side of the big toe joint.

  2. The big toe itself adopting an inwardly directed stance, engaging in a peculiar tango with its neighboring toes.

  3. A noticeable gap wedged between the first and second toes.

  4. The emergence of redness, swelling, or warmth enveloping the big toe joint.

  5. Corns, calluses, blisters, or ulcers seizing the toes or the ball of the foot.

  6. A reluctance of the big toe to perform its usual movements with ease, leaving behind an aura of stiffness.

  7. The occasional companionship of pain, nestling within the big toe joint or spreading its influence across the foot.

A bunion

LamiotCC BYSA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

How to prevent bunions

As the age-old adage goes, prevention is worth a pound of cure. When it comes to warding off these perplexing bunions, a few preemptive measures may prove invaluable. Consider the following:

  1. Embrace shoes that harmonize with your feet, offering ample room for your toes to breathe and wiggle with unencumbered joy. Beware the allure of tight, narrow, or towering high heels that conspire against your foot's contentment.

  2. Engage the services of orthotic inserts or pads, steadfast allies in the quest for arch support and foot cushioning. Acquire these faithful companions over-the-counter or entrust their creation to a skilled podiatrist's capable hands.

  3. Nurture your foot's resilience through a series of exercises and stretches, fostering muscular strength and enhancing flexibility. Additionally, indulge in the indulgence of foot massages, utilizing oils or lotions to alleviate tension and invigorate blood circulation.

  4. Maintain a healthy weight, for the avoidance of obesity can prove instrumental in minimizing undue strain upon your precious feet.

  5. Be vigilant and address any underlying conditions that may embolden the presence of bunions, including arthritis, gout, or diabetes.

  6. Should mild bunions take residence upon your feet, alleviate inflammation and pain with the aid of anti-inflammatory medications or the application of soothing ice packs.

When to Seek Professional Help

Should the nefarious bunions mount an assault of considerable magnitude, threatening your peace of mind, mobility, and everyday pursuits, it is imperative to seek the expert guidance of a skilled podiatrist. These foot whisperers possess the knowledge and expertise to unveil an array of treatment options, tailored to your unique circumstances and preferences. Among the arsenal of possibilities, you may encounter:

  1. The prescription of potent painkillers or anti-inflammatory drugs, effectively silencing the chorus of bunion induced distress.

  2. The administration of corticosteroid injections, which work diligently to tame swelling and curb inflammation within the joint.

  3. The suggestion of splints, braces, straps, or tape, transforming into loyal sentinels, diligently upholding the integrity of your wayward toe and staving off further deterioration.

A medical specialist performing a podiatric massage

Image by wangyanwei from Pixabay

New Horizon Foot and Ankle Specialists LLC

In search of a reliable and experienced podiatrist to accompany you on your bunion banishing journey? Look no further than the esteemed halls of New Horizon Foot and Ankle Specialists LLC. Boasting a team of board-certified podiatrists, we have diligently served the community for an impressive span of 16 years. Our expansive repertoire encompasses an array of services, from routine checkups and preventive care comprehensive rehabilitation. Armed with state-of-the-art technology and unwavering dedication, we endeavor to deliver the finest outcomes while ensuring your utmost satisfaction. With a welcoming approach to most insurance plans and a commitment to flexible payment options, New Horizon Foot and Ankle Specialists LLC strives to make your healing journey as seamless as possible.

At New Horizon Foot and Ankle Specialists LLC, your wellbeing takes center stage. Each patient is met with compassion and respect, their comfort and satisfaction held in high regard. Whether plagued by bunions, heel pain, ingrown toenails, or any foot or ankle ailment, be rest assured that we are ready to guide you back to the path of mobility and joy.

Do not let the burden of bunions mar your every day. Seize the opportunity to embark on a transformational journey by contacting us for a glimpse into the realm of foot empowering possibilities. The anticipation of your arrival fills our hearts, eager to restore your gait and reignite your zest for life.


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