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This needs to be said upfront – outright preventing a bunion is quite difficult. For one thing, bunions are not caused by women’s shoes (as is commonly thought). As another consideration, the tracks for this common condition have often been laid long before someone would begin to think about taking measures to prevent one.
In spite of the common misconception that they are caused by high-heeled shoes, bunions are actually the result of abnormal gait patterns and/or inherited foot structures. Issues like these can lead to instability in the joint where the big toe connects to the foot – the metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint.
Joint instability allows the big toe to start drifting inward and angling toward the other toes. As this happens, it forces the near end of the toe bone, and the MTP joint, to press out. This forms the recognizable bump associated with the condition.
As the heel strikes the ground when walking, the joints of the foot unlock and absorb impact. Referred to as pronation, the arch collapses causing the feet to flatten. This flattening causes excessive tension of the tendon in the upper mid-foot that enables the big toe to bend upward. The tendon contracts which then forces the big toe to be pulled laterally toward the second toe.
Knowing how bunions develop is helpful in understanding how to stop—or at least slow—their progression. In general, most bunion deformities are the result of foot structure and function which are genetic. When caught early, orthotics can be used to correct the biomechanical processes that cause a bunion to worsen. This is important in being able to reduce the need for bunion surgery.
Since a bunion is progressive in nature—which means it is irreversible and will worsen over time if left untreated—the only way to truly correct one is with surgery. Catching the condition early, though, is key for the best chance at keeping the problem from becoming severe over time. With that in mind, you should stay vigilant for early signs of a bunion, including:
Early drifting of the big toe towards your smaller toes
Bump on the base joint of the big toe
Deep dull “in the joint” pain
Pain on top or side of the big toe from shoe pressure
One of the measures we can take to help prevent the condition from worsening is prescribing a pair of custom orthotics for you. These medical devices are created to work with your unique foot structure and gait pattern. Orthotics are beneficial in slowing (or even outright stopping) bunion progression because they address the aforementioned factors that cause the toe deformity.
It’s important to know that no matter what stage your bunion is in—and one can take several years to develop fully—you might experience pain. This can be severe to the point you cannot walk comfortably in normal shoes. If this is a problem you are having, come see us as soon as possible!
Of course, you should come see us even if you are not having severe pain and have only just realized a bunion is starting to develop as well. We can create a plan so that this condition does not progress. For more information, or to request your appointment, call our Metairie office at (504) 708-4810 or our Covington office at (985) 809-1464.