Bunion Blog

Bunion Blog


What are Bunions? 

An inflamed swelling of the small fluid-filled sac on the first joint of the big toe accompanied by enlargement and protrusion of the joint. Bunions occur when the bones of the big toe deviate from their normal position, this deviation causes a bump or protrusions at the big toe joint. Pain can occur because of the bump rubbing against shoes or from the joint being in an abnormal position. Over time, the joint deviation can cause early onset arthritis as well. 


Why do Bunions develop?

Bunions result from years of improper foot motion and stress, an example would be wearing poorly fitted shoes, specifically shoes with a narrow and pointed toe box that forces the toe into an unnatural position. Over time, that abnormal motion forces the bone and tissue at the base of the toe out of place, creating a prominent bump and causing foot instability. Bunions are also, at least partially, inherited. 


Can Bunions be Hereditary?

Yes they can be, some people inherit feet that are more likely to develop bunions than others, due to their foot shape and structure. 


Will Bunions continue to get worse if you don’t surgically correct them?

Bunions do get worse over time and can accelerate the development of arthritis and/or hammertoe deformity. An early diagnosis can help you avoid further damage and pain. 


Are there any conservative options to treat Bunions? 

Yes, typically Dr. Harper does like to try conservative treatment first before recommending a surgical correction. Some of these treatments are:

  • Padding and Taping- Padding the bunion minimizes pain, taping helps keep the foot in a normal position and can also help reduce pain. 
  • Anti-Inflammatory Medication- Over the Counter (OTC) medication can ease the pain and inflammation with Bunions. Podiatrists can also prescribe special medications and/or use cortisone injections to decrease inflammation. 
  • Physical Therapy- Special exercises can relieve pain and increase flexibility and function of the foot. 
  • Orthotics- Custom orthotic inserts can help keep your feet in alignment, relieving the pressure on the affected joint. Dr. Harper is an expert in creating custom orthotics. 
  • Properly Fitted and shaped shoes- Shoes of proper, width, length, and construction are helpful in both avoiding bunions and living with them.


How would Dr. Harper remove my bunion surgically? 

Because bunions vary in shape and size, there are different surgical procedures performed to correct them. Common techniques would be:

  • Osteotomy- surgeon will cut the big toe and realign it to a normal position. 
  • Exostectomy- surgeon will remove your bunion from the joint without performing realignment. 
  • Arthrodesis- Surgeon will replace the damaged joint with screws or metal plates to correct the deformity. 

Dr. Harper would examine your foot, take into account any conservative treatments you’ve attempted, and then decide what surgical procedure would be best suited to you. During your discussion he would also take the time to explain in detail the benefits and the risks of doing a surgical bunion correction. 


What does recovery after Bunion surgery look like?

Typically we see a 6-8 week recovery after surgery but sometimes full recovery can take anywhere from 4-6 months. 2 weeks after your surgery you will be in a surgical boot to protect your foot and you will want to avoid getting your stitches wet. After the first 2 weeks you will transition to a brace and crutches, periodically coming into the office for post-operative appointments that will help us decide when it is time for you to gradually begin to put weight back on your foot. Sometimes we may refer you to a physical therapist to accelerate your recovery. 


What is a Tailor’s Bunion? 

(Also called a Bunionette)

Tailor’s Bunion is a bony lump that forms along the side of the little toe. It happens when the 5th metatarsal bone enlarges or shifts outward. Similar to a regular bunion, but in a different location instead of the big toe, it develops on the outside of the foot at the base of the little toe. Causes for a tailor’s bunion are very similar to a regular bunion: wearing poorly fitted shoes, and high heels. But you’re more likely to have a tailor’s bunion if you’ve inherited a structural foot problem from your parents; this problem could be that the bone in your little toe is in an abnormal position or the head of the bone is enlarged, which causes the bone to move out of place. 


Dr. Spence Harper has been performing conservative and surgical treatments since the beginning of his career- 20 years ago, and is well experienced with all of the procedures available. He has made a continous effort to stay up-to-date with the current practices of both conservative and surgical treatments to provide you with the best care possible. If you have any questions or concerns he will take the time to carefully listen to make sure his answer is exactly what you need.


Schedule an appointment today to have him take a look at your bunions and evaluate what treatment would be best suited for you. Our office phone number is 801-274-9062, or you can schedule online!

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