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Bunions – More Common Than You Realise

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Bunions – More Common Than You Realise

Orthopaedic Surgeon Dr Danielle Wadley discusses bunions – what they are, how they happen, and how to treat them.


Hallux Valgus deformities, better known as bunions, are a very common abnormality of the foot. Up to one in three women and one in ten men have this deformity.

Risk Factors for Bunions
It is thought that approximately 85% of those with bunions have a family history of the deformity and therefore, there’s likely to be a strong genetic component.

Other risk factors include wearing tight, pointy shoes or high heels which can exacerbate the problem. Underlying medical conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis can also contribute to the risk of forming bunions. Bunions are also more likely to develop with age, with older women being the largest cohort.

What Exactly is a Bunion?
Bunion is the condition where the big toe deviates from the normal position and angles inward toward the second toe is referred to as hallux valgus. Technically speaking, a bunion is the enlarged bump on the side of the foot caused by deviated toe and is usually made up of bone.

When Should You Seek Medical Help to Treat Bunions?
While unattractive, many bunions are not painful enough to hinder everyday life. But some bunions can develop to become very painful, often restricting movement, exercise – and certainly your choice of footwear. Bunions rarely, if ever go away by themselves, so if bunions are increasing in size, or causing persistent pain, medical advice should be sought. There are both non-surgical and surgical options to help treat bunions.

Non-Surgical Treatments for Bunions
There are a number of simple, non-surgical measures to assist in the symptomatic management of bunions. It is important to know that these options do not alter or improve the physical deformity that causes bunions.
These options include:

  • Bunion splint
  • Bunion brace
  • Toe spacers
  • Silicone toe sleeves
  • Wearing wide toe boxed shoe and avoid high heels
  • Calf stretches to help off load the forefoot pressure
  • Metatarsal bar for metatarsalgia pain
  • Alteration to footwear such as stretching the leather overlying the first metatarsal head to accommodate the deformity
  • Low impact exercise and avoid activities which exacerbate symptoms such as running
    Weight loss

Minimally Invasive Surgery for Bunion Correction
Any surgical intervention would first be assessed by examining an X-raying the toe and foot to determine the degree of deformity. Generally, surgery is only considered if there are sufficient, ongoing symptoms such as pain, difficulties with footwear and limitations affecting the activities of daily living.

Surgery is determined by the degree of the deformity – as not all bunions are the same. Newer, minimally invasive techniques can correct the deformity and apply fixation where required. A bunion sleeve or splint, or additional taping is often an important post-surgery component to help maintain the correction in the early post-operative period.

Bunion surgery has a reputation for being painful, but with appropriate pain management and elevation of the foot for a period after surgery, swelling and pain can be minimised.

Got bunions?

If bunions are an issue for you, contact orthopaedic Surgeon Dr Danielle Wadley to discuss your options. Call 1300 10 54 64.


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