What Causes Bunions? What To Know About This Painful Condition? Condition

What Causes Bunions? What To Know About This Painful Condition?

What Causes Bunions?

Your feet take on a lot of punishment for very little reward: You pound the pavement, stub your toes on furniture corners, and wear uncomfortable shoes on the regular—it only makes sense that eventually they may develop issues.

Bunions are a painful foot ailment that many people deal with—the painful bumps can make wearing normal shoes a hassle, and, in extreme cases, make walking or exercising very difficult or painful. Researchers estimate that about one in five people will develop a bunion in their lifetime, and as a result, it’s important to know the signs of a bunion, and what treatment options are available if you suspect that you have developed a bunion.

What Do You Know About Bunions?

Sometimes you’ll develop something called a bunion when one of your big toes starts to point toward your second toe. That often results in a bump on the outside of your big toe. That bump isn’t a normal bump. This is a condition where the MTP joint is displaced. While the big toe is doing its normal motion, that MTP joint starts to become out of alignment, stretching the ligaments and tendons that control it. Bunions begin small and get worse over time. That’s because each time you walk, your MPT joint flexes, and the bunion gets bigger and more painful and difficult to walk on.

Who Can Get Bunion?

About one in three Americans have toenail problems. For older adults, the foot problem is most common in women. Bunions can develop on one or both feet.

What Are the Early Signs of Bunions?

Since bunions rarely develop on their own, people like to assign them to other diseases as an explanation. You might experience some of the following symptoms from these side effects:

  • Pain or tenderness present in your big toe or foot
  • Swelling or redness just around your big toe joint
  • Red, irritated, or warm-to-the-touch skin present around your big toe joint
  • Stiffness or limited range of motion on your big toe or foot

Visible Bunion Symptoms You Might Come Across

  • Presences of a bump or lump on the side of your big toe
  • Your big toe is turned in or at an angle, maybe even overlapping the toe next to it
  • Chances of having a thickened skin at the base of the toe
  • Calluses or corns on the first or second toes, which develop when your toes rub against each other

What Does the Bunion Pain Feel Like?

Bunion pain can be extremely painful for different people. It can be mild, severe, and temporary, and it may flare up from time to time. You feel pain in your big toe all night long, and in the ball of your foot all day long. You could also experience shooting pain if swelling in your toe joint is pressing against a nerve.

If your big toe is turned in and is clogging up the next toe, you may experience pain from multiple areas. Turning in a lot can also lead to a painful condition known as hammer toe. There may also be pain where the actual bunion growth sticks out from the rest of your foot and rubs against the side of your shoe.

What Are the Types of Bunions You Can Suffer From?

Bunions on the big toe are the most common. Other types include:

  • Juvenile Or Adolescent Hallux Valgus: Tweens and teens between the ages of 10 and 15 may develop bunions.
  • Tailor’s Bunion: Also called a bunionette, this bunion forms on the outside base of the little (pinkie) toe.

What Can Lead to Bunions?

Bunions are generally thought to be genetic because they keep coming back. Foot problems can occur because of inherited foot problems. Specific physical characteristics, like a flat foot and abnormally flexible ligaments, can lead to bunions. Some experts think shoes that don’t fit properly cause bunions, but others think they interfere with well-structured feet. Bunions become worse over time. They can be aggravated by:

  • Tight or too-small shoes would make your toes to crowd together, and this can put pressure on your big toe.
  • Wearing shoes that have high heels or pointy toes. Such styles can force your toes to join.
  • When you stand for long periods of time
  • Getting or suffering from arthritis symptoms in your feet

Symptoms of Suffering From Bunions

Bunions are likely to become more annoying as one becomes older, especially if there has been no preventative action taken to prevent their incidence. As we get older, the symptoms of bunions become much worse. The symptoms of bunions are – 

  • Pain/tenderness
  • A corn or callus on the bump
  • Redness
  • Hardened skin on the bottom of your foot
  • Stiffness or restricted motion in your big toe (which could lead to difficulty walking)
  • Inflammation

What Are the Complications You Might Suffer From Due to Bunions?

Some of the major complications of bunions are –


This irritating and painful condition is caused when these small, fluid-filled pads on the inside of your joints become inflamed.


This sort of bend, where your big toe bends in a way that causes pain and pressure, usually occurs on the big toe next to your thumb.


This condition causes pain and swelling in the ball of your foot.

Bunions Lead To Sedentary Lifestyle

Having bunions doesn’t really give you a choice if you want to be able to walk or participate in other activities. As you get older, bunions are more likely to develop. You might get this in your life when you are experiencing tremendous camaraderie and health benefits from physical activity (i.e.: exercising), as well.

A sedentary lifestyle – sitting at a computer all day – puts you at a higher risk of weight gain and developing chronic diseases. You are also more likely to suffer mental health problems. When a severe bunion is in place, it can seriously interfere with the quality of life, making simple tasks like going to the store or to the doctor or dentist unpleasant.

Leading to Foot Arthritis

If one bunion around your big toe joint ever develops, you are more likely to develop arthritis. Because the joint is out of alignment, then the friction on your bones is unusual, damaging the cartilage. The cartilage wears down or wears out in places where there is bone-on-bone pain, and this bone-on-bone pain causes stiffness and inflammation.

Bunions Lead To Gait Dysfunction

Your big toe may only be one of your feet, but it plays a very important role in helping you keep your balance and walk properly. Your bunion has grown, affecting how your foot strikes when walking, and how you distribute your weight. This just means that your knees and hips are adducted improperly. Accidental falls from a wobble foot can lead to a severe impact on your body and be dangerous to the elderly. Conservatives would prefer to use conservative approaches, such as padding and taping to minimize pain. People can use medication, physical therapy, and a healthy lifestyle to reduce the pain and inflammation that can cause bunions. A customized shoe might help some people feel better if they have foot pain caused by misalignments in the way their feet land with each step.

Surgery to remove a bony protrusion, such as a bunion, can also be done for severe cases. If you have bunions, don’t wait until you have so many that you have no other choice except to have surgery. Proper medical care will help you avoid the painful complications of the condition and avoid having to have your surgery performed in a hospital setting.

How Can You Treat and Diagnose Bunions?

If your doctor thinks that you might be suffering from a bunion, you may be asked a lot of questions about your medical history, and your foot may be examined. They may also end up ordering an X-ray to confirm the diagnosis.

If your doctor says your bunion is getting worse, he might also mention a few non-surgical bunion treatments, such as changing your shoe. In most cases the bunion can be safely managed with shoes that fit properly, without compressing the toes. Sometimes they’d tell you to put a bunion-shield on the bump. You could also apply ice or take other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen.

If your pain gets worse, your doctor might recommend you have surgery to take out your bunion, called a bunionectomy. Before the bunionectomy, the bony bump on the big toe had to be removed. When a bunionectomy was first developed, a surgeon had to realign the toe, and then remove the bony bump. Usually, it’s recommended that patients start with another type of treatment before surgery if they haven’t had any luck with non-surgical treatments.

The good news is that most people who choose to have a bunionectomy do not have to wear a cast afterwards. After the recovery time is over, the person can get up after just one month in a boot, walk normally again within a month, then work out without their assistance again at 90 days.

What Are Other Treatments You Can Opt For?

Bunions don’t go away. Treatment often focuses on alleviating symptoms and may include medication.

  • Bunion Pads and Taping: Over-the-counter bunion pads can cushion the area and ease the pain. Medical tape can also be used to keep your foot in the correct position while you are healing.
  • Footwear Changes: Wearing shoes with wide, deep toe boxes can help take pressure off your toes. You can use straining machines to widen shoes that you own.
  • Orthotic Devices: Over the counter or custom-made shoe inserts can help to control alignment issues that may be contributing to bunion formation. You can place a spacer between the big toe and the second finger. Some people sleep with splints on to keep their toes straight, which they find relieves pressure behind the big toe.
  • Pain Relievers: NSAIDs can be used together with ice packs to help with pain and swelling.
  • Physical Therapy: Massage, physical therapy and ultrasound therapy can break up soft-tissue adhesions to reduce pain and inflammation. There are exercises that can help improve muscle strength around the bunion and can modestly improve alignment.
  • Injections: Steroid injections may reduce pain and swelling but may also be damaging if used too often or injected into the joint itself. This is often a late treatment of bunions when trying to avoid surgery.

Following Conservative Treatment

The first step to relieving the pressure is wearing the right kind of shoes. It’s important to maintain a normal weight, as well as staying strong. Shoes should be wide enough to support the foot and have enough room in the toe box. Even as the part of the foot where the bunion is situated. If you don’t want to avoid dirt in the backyard, you should wear something that covers your feet, like sandals or athletic shoes.

Shoes with a back should have a durable heel to keep the heel in place. You can make narrow shoes a little wider, like the hole in your bunion. Don’t wear shoes that are too high. You can also protect the bunion by wearing a moleskin or gel-filled pad, available at drugstores. A clinician may recommend that the foot needs to be positioned properly as it hits the ground because of the increased impact. You can also wear a splint at night to ease the pain in your foot.

If you have an irritated and painful bunion, warm soaks, ice packs, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin or ibuprofen can help. Whirlpool, ultrasound, and massage may provide some relief from chronic pain. Cortisone injections can help relieve pain temporarily by reducing inflammation, but they come with many side effects, because they are so powerful.

It Is Easy to Prevent Bunions

Wearing shoes that fit properly will help prevent bunions, so make sure you buy the right type of shoe, such as those with soft leather uppers. If you discover you have a bunion, you should check it out with a specialist as soon as possible, as it’s easier to treat bunion pain if you catch it early on.


Saravavan Nadarajan (Vanan)

Vanan, fitness expert and leader at EzFit Singapore, specializes in holistic training—home-based, boot camps, and corporate fitness—with over a decade of industry experience.

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