If you have a bunion on one or both feet, then you know how difficult it can be to try to live with the pain and discomfort. What you might not know is that bunion surgery is not the only option available. In many cases, a series of appointments with a trained physical therapist can help resolve bunions by improving range of motion, along with foot alignment and muscle strength, which in turn helps to eliminate your pain. Read on to learn more about bunions (hallux valgus) and more importantly, what can be done to help eliminate this painful condition.
Bunion – A Foot Deformity
A bunion occurs when the base of the big toe moves outward, causing painful friction between the foot and any footwear worn by the patient. The top of the big toe leans toward the smaller toes, crowding them as well. This condition can cause pain and swelling, especially noticeable upon standing and walking. If the deformity is allowed to continue, an individual will have great difficulty finding any comfortable footwear. In addition, an individual suffering from bunions may notice changes in their balance, making it more likely they will suffer from a fall!
Bunions are more common in women and the likelihood of acquiring a bunion increases with age too. Some women tend to wear high-heeled shoes, often with inadequate room for all their toes. Over time, the intense pressure on their toes especially the big toe can cause the joint between the foot and the big toe to shift and become swollen and inflamed. Other factors that increase the likelihood of acquiring bunions include flat arches, osteoarthritis, heredity, and lax or overly flexible joints.
Solutions for Bunions
As with anything else, it is always advisable to try to correct a problem early on, rather than postponing treatment. The longer one waits for treatment, the more likely they will need surgery to correct their foot deformity. Regardless of where one is at in level of severity with their bunions, the first order of treatment is to stop wearing any footwear that does not provide adequate room in the entire toe area. In order to decrease inflammation, as well as speed healing, a bunion sufferer can alternate both ice and heat packs. The ice will decrease inflammation, while the heat brings blood flow to the area that can help promote healing. There are foot orthotics available called toe separators that when worn, help to provide support and encourage proper toe alignment. Regular rest and elevation of the affected area can also help decrease pain levels.
If home remedies still aren’t enough, your physician may recommend a series of physical therapy treatments to resolve your bunions, rather than immediately jumping into surgery. A qualified physical therapist can make recommendations as to the proper footwear to use, as well as identify any other issues that could be contributing to a patient’s bunion issue. A physical therapist can then develop a comprehensive plan that will help improve a patient’s strength in key muscles and improve their range of motion, as well as address any other toe, foot, or leg issues that may be contributing or affected by a patient’s bunions.
As a last resort, if all conservative treatment efforts fail, a physician will likely refer their bunion patient for foot surgery. Bunion surgery, also known as a bunionectomy, has several forms. In some cases, a surgeon may cut the big toe joint and realign it. In other cases, a surgeon may simply remove the bone and tissue that makes up the bunion without following up with realignment. For some patients, a surgeon will decide to replace the damaged joint with a metal plate and/or screws.