When many think of a bunion, they likely imagine (or outright have) a bump that has been with them for a long time. Bunions don’t go away on their own, and only tend to become more pronounced and intrusive over the years.
But in many cases, a bunion can be caught and addressed much earlier in its “career,” before it has a chance to become such a significant obstruction to enjoying daily life. The earlier a bunion is treated, the more easily and effectively it can be addressed – but that doesn’t mean a big, veteran bunion can’t benefit from the right treatment, too!
To understand where treatment stands at different stages of a bunion’s life, it helps to know how the condition develops. But regardless of how severe your bunion may be – or whether you’re fully certain you even have one right now – it is well worth seeing us for an examination and consultation. We’ll be happy to answer all your questions on treatment and prevention.
What Causes a Bunion?
An advanced bunion is hard to miss. It most often takes the form of a large, bony bump protruding from the side of the foot, at the base of the big toe. The big toe itself usually shifts inward toward its neighboring toes, too.
These changes are typically caused by a structural instability in the joint at the base of the big toe, officially known as the metatarsophalangeal (or MTP) joint.
A joint is composed of bones surrounded by ligaments, tendons, and other tissues that help hold it properly in place. When there is an imbalance of some sort, the joint can become more likely to shift in ways it was not intended to.
It is believed in many cases that this instability is inherited. In other words, if your parents and grandparents had bunions, it is more likely that you will, too. Other influencing factors can include previous trauma to the joint as well as deteriorating conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis.
What Makes a Bunion Worse?
However, while the instability is at the core of a bunion, internal and external factors can significantly add to the problem. Just think of a fence post that is planted in unstable ground. It’s already weak as it is, but things will only become worse if you start leaning on and wiggling it.
Over time, forces can make a bunion progressively worse, increasing not only the size of the bump, but issues with pain, stiffness, calluses, and other uncomfortable symptoms. They frequently come from several sources, including:
- Existing structural imbalances in foot structure, such as high arches, that shift excess pressure to the forefoot.
- High-heeled shoes that also shift excess pressure to the front of the foot (but in this case you can stop wearing them).
- Footwear that is tight in the toe area, compressing the toes together (whether it is high-heeled or not).
- Physical stresses from work or hobbies, such as anything that might require you to stoop or squat for extended periods of time.
The longer these factors are allowed to go unaddressed, the greater an overall impact they can have on a bunion over time. If you are developing or definitely have a bunion, there is no better time to take action than now!
Considering Bunion Treatment – Sooner is Better!
When a bunion is in its earliest stages – before it really looks much like a bunion – preventative care can help ensure it doesn’t turn into a much more significant problem.
Measures at this point may include, among others:
- Changes in footwear.
- Specialized exercises to strengthen the joint and supporting elements.
- Custom orthotics to offload excess pressure from the forefoot.
- Night splints or other equipment to hold the joint in a natural position.
Even a more pronounced bunion may still benefit from conservative treatments such as these. Anything that can lead to greater comfort or increased mobility is worth doing!
However, there is one thing no conservative form of treatment is able to do: reverse a bunion. No amount of splinting will achieve that goal.
The only thing that can restore the original alignment and/or shape of the big toe is a surgical procedure. We are experts in providing surgical care for bunions, and will be more than happy to discuss the potential of surgery with you. In some cases when a bunion is severe and rigid, surgery turns out to be the only feasible way to provide pain relief and maintain mobility and range of motion.
Don’t Let Your Bunion Take Over Your Life
It’s human nature to think that something isn’t so bad at first, and can wait on treatment. But with a bunion, the only way things can go without treatment is worse.
Whether conservative treatments or surgical intervention are necessary for meeting your needs, we can fully discuss all of your options with you. Our primary goal will always be recommending the best ways to reduce pain, increase mobility, lessen the progression of your bunion, and let you keep doing the things you love as best as possible.
Call either of our El Paso offices to schedule an appointment with us:
- Sierra Tower Building – (915) 533-5151
- George Dieter Drive – (915) 856-3331
Or, if you prefer to reach out to us electronically, fill out our online contact form and we will respond to you during our standard office hours