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Life in Motion

The Truth About Bunions

Health & Prevention

bunion, which is an enlargement of the base of your big toe, is one of the most common foot problems among Americans. The bump is actually a result of a dislocation of the big toe joint that results in the 1st metatarsal bone’s “head” becoming prominent. Although common, there are many misconceptions about bunions. Here to set the record straight is NEBH Chief of Podiatry, Kenneth Leavitt, DPM.

Myth: Improper footwear cause bunions
Shoes, particularly high heeled shoes, are often blamed for causing bunions. Although shoes with narrow toes can trigger a bunion, they are not the underlying cause. Bunions tend to run in families as foot shape is hereditary, and people with flat feet, low arches, and loose joints and tendons are at an increased risk for developing bunions. The pain from bunions can be from irritation to the bump, but the deformity itself can cause pain because of the joint dislocation.

Myth: All bunions require surgery
In general, if your bunion is not painful, you do not need surgery. Although bunions often get larger over time, surgery can be recommended to prevent bunions from worsening. If you are able, you can try to wear shoes with more room to prevent irritation to the bump.  There is no way to slow the progression of bunion deformities. One of the biggest myths is that orthotics will slow progression or even prevent bunions, but there is no science behind this argument.

Myth: Bunion surgery can be performed for cosmetic reasons
Although you may find the large bump on your foot unsightly, bunion surgery should never be performed for cosmetic reasons. This is because sometimes after a joint surgery, one can have scar tissue and/or joint pain. Hence, why operate on a non-painful deformity unless it limits shoe wear or is painful.

Myth: Only women get bunions
Although bunions are more common in women, they can certainly be a problem for men, too. They can occur at any age for both men and women.

Myth:  I can choose different options for fixing my bunion
Good foot surgery usually requires a several month period of limited activity no matter what procedure is performed. In younger women, usually below the age of 65, recovery typically requires two months of non-weight bearing and in a cast. Be wary of promises of quick recovery or a quick fix, and never allow someone to just remove the bump. The bump is a manifestation of a joint dislocation. Fixing the dislocation requires fixing the underlying structure.

If you have any type of persistent foot pain, it’s important to consult an orthopedic expert.

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