Hallux valgus (bunions) is a condition that affects the ball of the foot. It is a deviation of the bones which make up the big toe joint. Hallux valgus is a term that describes the movement of the big toe towards the second toe joint. This deviation creates a more prominent ‘bump’ on the inside of the foot. After time and pressure from footwear, this ‘bump’ may get bigger and this is called a ‘bunion’.
Hallux valgus occurs due to a combination of factors. The main contributing factors are poorly fitting footwear, unstable foot biomechanics and high-heeled shoes. It is a progressive condition that may get worse if the causative factors are not addressed and changed.
Pain may or may not be felt with hallux valgus. Depending on the extent of the joint deviation and soft tissue changes, the amount of pain will be variable between people. The pain may be described as an ache, and may be felt with movement of the joint, in particular at the end of the joint range. Activity that requires an increase in the joint motion available may impinge the joint and create painful symptoms (i.e. sprinting, dancing). High-heeled shoes may increase stress on this joint.
The injury should be examined by a health practitioner. In particular a podiatrist or sports medicine physician. The biomechanical anomalies should be assessed and possibly corrected, either using foot orthoses and/or modifications to footwear. If the pain is not managed using conservative measures, surgery on the joint may be necessary.
Hallux valgus is a degenerative process and will get worse with time and increased weight-bearing. Poor footwear, unstable foot biomechanics and intense running activity should be assessed and possibly avoided. Eliminating the factors that increase the pressure on the ball of the foot should be encouraged.
As long as the injury is properly managed there should not be any long-term effects. If the management is unsuccessful, then ongoing stress may cause further bone formation, increased joint deviation and possibly secondary arthritic joint changes. Early conservative management is important in treatment of this condition. In alleviating the pain from this condition, surgical correction may be necessary.
Sports medicine professionals can help with the management of hallux valgus. Podiatrists can assist with footwear and orthotic adjustments. If conservative management techniques provide no relief, the patient may be referred for a surgical opinion.