Many patients describe their bunion as an enlarged bony bump on the inside of their foot at the base of the big toe. The truth, however, is that bunions are much more complicated.

Bunions, in fact, result from a gradual shift in the position and alignment of the first metatarsal, the long bone between the large toe and the instep of the foot.

As the first metatarsal gradually shifts, the visible “bump” at the base of the big toe becomes more pronounced. At the same time, the big toe begins to drift towards the second toe, and in severe cases, the second toe can end up overlapping the big toe.

What Causes Bunions? 

Bunions are misunderstood, and the biggest misconception is that they are caused by narrow shoes, high heels, or pointed-toe boxes. While those types of shoes can make your bunion worse, the major factor that determines whether or not you will develop one is your inherited foot type and structure. 

If you have a flexible foot, you are more likely to develop a bunion over time. If you spend a lot of time on your feet in poorly supportive shoes or flip flops, or if you often go barefoot, you will probably develop a bunion more quickly. But those things are not the root cause.

Will Your Bunion Get Worse? 

Bunions are considered progressive deformities. This means they will not get better on their own, and they will only get worse if left untreated.

When bunions first appear, the bump is relatively small and the symptoms so minor that you may feel you can safely ignore them. You are still able to wear your normal shoes, participate in athletic activities, and live a normal lifestyle without much pain. But if left untreated, your bunions will only get worse.

As bunions progress, the bump enlarges and makes it more difficult to wear your normal shoes comfortably. The pressure and friction of the shoe against the deformity creates pain and swelling and can eventually cause a callus.

In some cases, the big toe joint may become stiff and arthritic, and this condition will gradually affect your balance and mobility.

If medical attention is postponed until a bunion is severe, surgery may be the only remaining effective treatment. However, if treatment is sought at the onset of a bunion’s initial development, it can usually prevent them from advancing to a more serious stage or at least slow down their progression and minimize your symptoms.

Feet with bunions next to a high heel
Doctor evaluating foot with bunion

What are the Conservative Treatment Options?

There are several conservative treatment options for bunions, including:

  • Changing to shoes with a wide, deep toe box and a low heel to reduce pressure on the bunion.
  • Using bunion pads or cushions to reduce pressure and friction on the bunion.
  • Wearing custom-made orthotic inserts, or medical grade supports,  to help stabilize and correct the alignment of the foot to relieve pressure on the bunion.
  • Stretching and strengthening exercises improve the flexibility and strength of the foot muscles.
  • Using ice packs or taking over-the-counter pain relievers to reduce pain and inflammation.

It is important to consult with our office before starting any treatment regimen, as our expert podiatrist, Dr. Bobrowski, can recommend the most appropriate treatment options based on the severity of the bunion and your individual needs.

How to Know if You Need Surgery?

In most cases, surgery for a bunion is only recommended if conservative treatment options have failed to provide adequate relief of pain and discomfort. Our doctor will also consider the severity of the bunion and how it is affecting your ability to walk and perform daily activities.

If your bunion is causing significant pain, causing difficulty walking, or interfering with your daily activities, our doctor may recommend surgery. Other indications for bunion surgery include:

  • Chronic inflammation and swelling of the bunion and surrounding tissues.
  • Development of calluses or corns on the bunion or adjacent toes.
  • Crowding of the toes, causing them to overlap or become distorted.
  • Deformity of the big toe, causing it to bend inward or outward.
  • Loss of range of motion in the big toe joint.

If you are considering bunion surgery, it is important to consult with Dr. Bobrowski, who can evaluate your condition and determine if surgery is the best option for you.

Get Help for Your Bunion Pain!

If you think you might have a bunion, the earlier you get it evaluated, the easier it is to treat. Contact our office in New Bern, North Carolina by calling (252) 638-4700. You can also fill out our online contact form and one of our staff will reach out to you.

Stop putting off getting your bunion pain treated, let us help you get relief!