Beware of bunions: Make sure this painful problem doesn't happen to you

Beware of bunions: Make sure this painful problem doesn’t happen to you

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After a long day of work, it's not uncommon for your feet to be tired and sore. When you spend all day on your feet working on an industrial production line, helping patients as a nurse or taking orders at a restaurant, foot soreness after work can seem unavoidable. However, when people develop bunions, this temporary soreness and pain can persist long after work is over. If you're concerned that you may develop bunions or curious how they're treated, take some time to learn more about this painful foot condition and how to prevent it. 

What exactly is a bunion? 
A bunion looks like a bump next to your big toe. The Latin name for a bunion is hallux valgus, which roughly translates to "big toe turned away from the body." Contrary to this Latin definition, it's the joint, not the toe, that points outward. Typically, the big toe is pushed inward toward the other toes, which in turn pushes the toe joint outward in a large, bony bump. 

Small bunions, or bunionettes, can form on other toe joints, but the issue is usually on the large toe. In addition to the bunion itself, often the skin on the outside of a bunion is sore and red, the Mayo Clinic explained. This big toe joint, the metatarsophalangeal joint, is moved out of place with a bunion, but still takes on a lot of the body's weight when walking or standing. Mainly because of this weight absorption, bunions can be extremely painful.

Bunions are also characterized by thicker skin on the outside of the toe, limited toe movement, corns or calluses between the big and second toe, and a bump on the toe joint.

Bunions are caused by abnormal foot development, the American Podiatric Medical Administration explained. 

"Bunions form when the normal balance of forces that is exerted on the joints and tendons of the foot becomes disrupted," the APMA noted. "This disruption can lead to instability in the joint and cause the deformity. Bunions are brought about by years of abnormal motion and pressure over the MTP joint." 

Although there's only one cause of bunions, there are a number of factors that can bring on a bunion as a side effect. Bunions can be the effect of injuries, muscular deformities, wearing shoes that are too tight or ill fitting, or faulty walking mechanics. The APMA reminded people that bunions aren't hereditary, but can develop in families where structural or mechanical foot problems are passed down. 

How are bunions treated? 
Depending on the severity of a bunion, people may not need to visit a podiatrist or foot specialist for treatment. Although, if a condition continues to get worse, people should seek out care. Many people turn to padding or gel inserts that reduce the irritation to the area, medication to lessen pain and swelling, physical therapy, massage, medication injection or even surgery in extreme cases. 

Changing your footwear is particularly important, the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons reminded. Bunion sufferers who wear nonslip shoes or work boots at their jobs should make sure that they have footwear that's comfortable and the correct size. The ACFAS recommended shoes with a wider front end. 

How can I prevent bunions?
The best way to prevent bunions is to limit the number of risk factors. Avoid narrow shoes or high heels that may push your toes closer together. Arthritis is also a risk factor for bunions, as it can change the way you walk to avoid pain.

Whether it's arthritis pain, hereditary foot structures or muscular injuries, the quicker you notice a change in your walking style, the better. Treating a bunion early or a condition that may lead to a bunion can halt this condition's progress and reduce future pain. 

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