What are Bunions?

By Niki Kelley, DPT

What are Bunions?

A bunion is a bony bump that forms on the joint where your big toe and foot meet. This joint is called the metatarsophalangeal joint (MTP). This condition can also be referred to as hallux valgus. Hallux is another word for a person’s big toe and valgus, meaning a deformity involving an oblique displacement of part of a limb away from the midline. When you have a bunion, your big toe will start to point towards your smaller toes and away from the inside of your foot. This usually forms slowly over time, and as it gets bigger, you will start to notice it sticking out.

image of foot with bunions

Bunions are bony deformities in the big toe where it meets the foot

How Do I Know if I Have a Bunion?

The most obvious sign of a bunion is a lump on the joint of your big toe. Sometimes there might be pain that can either be constant or pain the comes and goes. The area can also become swollen or red. If severe, the bunion can cause your big toe to turn in and sometimes cause it to move on top of the toe next to it. This may make it hard to move your toes, especially the big toe. Sometimes corns or calluses form where the big toe rubs against the second toe.


What Causes Bunions?

image of woman rubbing foot from bunion pain from wearing high heels

Bunions can be painful

Bunions are thought to be caused by a variety of reasons, but the exact cause is unknown. Some of these factors you are born with, and some of them you can change. Wearing tight or narrow shoes can contribute to the development of bunions or make them worse. Repetitive foot stress or injuries can be a contributing factor.  Consult with your MD or physical therapist for suggestions on properly fitting shoes. Some causes of bunions may be out of your control. Some people are born with feet shaped in a certain way that predisposes them to develop bunions. Furthermore, conditions such as arthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, which cause your joints to swell and hurt, can develop a bunion.


When Should I See a Doctor?

anatomy of bones of foot

Anatomy of the bones of the foot

The quick answer is that you should see if you are having an ongoing big toe or foot pain, have a visible bump on your big toe joint, have decreased motion or ability to move your big toe, or are have trouble finding shoes to wear due to the bump on your toe. You will want to see a doctor specializing in treating foot disorders, such as an orthopedic foot specialist. The MD will most likely be able to confirm you have a bunion by just looking at your foot, but they will do an x-ray to assess the overall joint damage.


How do I Keep Bunions from Forming or Getting Worse?

Changing shoes can help significantly decrease your pain and help you manage your bunion pain. You want shoes with a wide toe box, and there should be space between the tip of your longest toe and the end of the shoe. You do not want to feel any squeezing or pressing on any part of your foot. Avoid shoes that are pointed or crowd the toe as well as high heels. High heels put pressure on the front of your foot and can cause excess stress to this region. Other treatment options include ice, adding padding to the area, OTC pain medicine, and occasionally surgery is needed.

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What Do I Do if I Have a Bunion?

The Jacksonville Orthopedic Institute has the top Foot and Ankle Doctors in the area.  They are the Bunion experts!  JOI can get you in with one of our Foot and Ankle Specialists quickly.  Let us get you on the Road to Recovery!

To schedule an appointment for physical therapy, please call JOI Rehab at 904-858-7045.

To schedule, an appointment in our offices or with telemedicine, call 904-JOI-2000, schedule online, or click the link below.

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