Bunions, those painful bumps inside the foot at the base of the big toe, have many causes. Studies have shown over the years that heredity is a contributing factor. Bunions are caused by the toe joint being pushed out of alignment where it attaches to the foot. Eventually, the big toe goes inward toward the other toes while the bone at the toe's base moves out of place, forming a bump along the foot's inside curve foot.
Bunions result from damage to the toe joint, which is often caused by misalignment of the feet or shifting of the bones due to pressure. The most common causes are flat feet, low arches, and loose ligaments or tendons. All of these are hereditary factors that are often shared by family members. You're more likely to develop bunions if you have any of these problems, but it isn't guaranteed.
For some people, instability in the foot arch or tight calf muscles (both hereditary conditions) can put too much pressure on the ball of the foot when walking. Over time, this causes the metatarsal bone at the toe's base to shift out of place.
While genes contribute to the increased possibility of bunions, other problems can lead to bunions. One of the most common, particularly in women, is wearing the wrong shoes. High-heeled shoes put additional pressure on the ball of the foot. Toes with a tight toe box or shoes with pointed toes can squeeze your toes together, pushing the big toe inward toward the other toes. In turn, the metatarsal bone is forced out, creating a bunion.
Preventing Bunions from Worsening
Wearing shoes with low heels, roomy toe boxes, and good arch support can help prevent bunions or keep current bunions from getting worse. See an orthopedic specialist or a podiatrist to discuss what other treatments might work. These include splinting the toe at night, wearing prescription orthotics in your shoes, and stretching your calf muscles.
When is Surgery Needed?
Surgery, referred to as bunionectomy, is seen as a last resort. It is an invasive procedure and is painful for several days or weeks after surgery. If your bunion causes chronic pain, affects your ability to walk, and makes it difficult to find shoes that fit, you should talk to your doctor about a bunionectomy. Fortunately, there are now hospitals like Northwest Surgery Center performing innovative, minimally invasive bunionectomies with faster recovery times and less scarring. With their innovative surgery, you can get back on your feet without pain almost immediately.