Bunions are a very common deformity of the feet and toes, and a bad one can seriously affect your quality of life. In this condition, two things begin to happen. First, the largest toe begins to drift out of alignment laterally, toward the other toes. Second, a large bump emerges at the base of the big toe, on the inside of the foot.
Bunions usually develop slowly over time, gradually getting worse and worse. Eventually, the joint may become extremely stiff, and the bump so large that you can’t find shoes that fit comfortably. Walking may become difficult, and painful corns, calluses, or blisters may form on the inside of the foot or where the big toe rubs against its neighbor.
How Bunions Form
In the simplest terms, bunions form in cases where the structure of your foot isn’t equipped to handle the wear and tear placed upon it. When the excess weight, pressure, and strain is concentrated near the base of the biggest toe, it can slowly destabilize the joint and create the deformity.
Contributing factors may include:
- An inherited foot type prone to bunion development
- Specific, acute injuries to the foot
- Inflammatory arthritis
- Frequently wearing ill-fitting or unsupportive footwear, such as high heels
When it comes to treatment, bunions can be approached either conservatively or surgically, with advantages and disadvantages to each approach. In general, we prefer to avoid surgery whenever possible. However, we’ll discuss your situation carefully with you in order to arrive at the best decision.
Conservative Care Options
If your bunion is still very minor, it’s possible that a change in your footwear is the only treatment you need. When your shoes fit properly, provide the support you need, and don’t squeeze your toes, you may find that the bunion stops hurting and stops getting worse.
Other treatments we may prescribe include:
- Stretches and physical therapy to relieve pain and strengthen joints, muscles, and connective tissues so that they can resist further damage
- Custom orthotics to divert pressure away from bunions and correct biomechanical flaws making them worse
- Padding to cushion the bunion and prevent it from rubbing painfully against the inside of your shoe.
- Splinting or taping to hold the toe in a more proper alignment
The disadvantage of conservative care is that it won’t “fix” your bunion—the bump itself will remain. However, the more important goal is to ensure that you no longer have pain and can comfortably participate in your daily activities. If you can achieve relief through conservative treatments, we’ll always encourage you to do so—our guiding principle is to do the best we can for you as simply as possible, and won’t ever pressure you into a procedure we don’t think you need.
Unfortunately, not every bunion can be relieved through conservative remedies. In such cases, we will look to surgical correction. Obviously, surgery does carry some risks and requires a recovery period, so you’ll have to plan for it. That said, a significant majority of people who undergo bunion surgery are happy with their choice, as it allows them to finally relieve pain and return to more active lifestyles.
There are many possible surgical approaches to fixing bunions, including cutting and realigning bones, fusing joints, transferring tendons, etc. A proper procedure will be selected based on your specific needs. That said, Dr. Walters is specially trained in minimally invasive surgical techniques and uses them whenever possible. Minimally invasive surgery requires only very small incisions and offers significant benefits to patients when compared to more traditional open surgeries:
- No need for hospitalization
- Usually no need for general anesthesia—local anesthesia is sufficient
- Usually no need for metal hardware such as plates and screws
- Less pain, swelling, and scarring
- Reduced risk of infection of complications
- Faster recovery time
Again, our goal is to do the best we can for our patients as simply as possible. Not every patient may qualify for a minimally invasive procedure, but we’ll always do everything we can to provide the full relief you need with the minimum possible amount of disruption and inconvenience to your life.
Quality Bunion Care on the Southwest Side
Whether your needs are conservative or surgical, Dr. Walters will help you find the best treatment for your situation. Our office is conveniently located on Archer Avenue in Garfield Ridge, Chicago. To set up an appointment, fill out an online contact form or call (773) 586-0050. The best days to call are Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays.