What is a bunion?

Bunions (or Hallux Valgus) is a progressive deformity of the big toe joint. As the condition progresses the big toe joint begins to change resulting in the big toe deviating towards the 2nd toe. This can lead to the development of a bony prominence at the big toe joint.

The exact cause of bunions is unknown, however there are likely genetic factors as well as lifestyle and biomechanical factors that contribute to the development of a bunion. Bunions progressively get worse with time and increased weight-bearing. Poor footwear, unstable foot biomechanics and activities with intense loads at extreme range of motion on the big toe joint and ball of the foot (such as running and dancing) can contribute to the development of bunions.

Bunions may or may not be painful, bunion related pain is often associated with the degree of big toe deviation. As the bunion develops irritation and inflammation of the big toe joint can lead to swelling and pain of the big toe joint as well as weakness of the muscles in the foot. Pain is often experiencedwith movement of the big toe leading to changes in gait pattern. Bunion pain can also lead to challenges with mobility, falls and balance problems.
If you have a bunion it is best to seek an assessment from a physiotherapist or podiatrist. Bunions can be managed conservatively (non-surgically); however some bunions may require referral for surgical intervention.

How can Physio help?

Initially the main aim of physiotherapy is to relieve pain and minimise swelling and irritation. Following this, a period of rehabilitation to address any biomechanical deficits. Conservative management of bunions include:-Modifying footwear-Manual therapy techniques-Strengthening muscles of the foot and ankle-Gait retraining-OrthoticsConservative management of bunions can slow or sometimes halt the progression of bunions. If conservative methods do not provide no relief; or the condition gradually continues to progress a referral for surgical intervention may be required. Physiotherapy may also help in the recovery post-operatively after surgical management of bunions.

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