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What's With Bunions?

Updated: Jul 30, 2019

You might notice on your feet or others’ that the big toe makes a sharp angle in and collides with the second toe. This is a bunion, otherwise, medically known as hallux valgus. It’s possible that at first you never noticed because you thought it was hereditary and/or either of your parents had it. It’s also possible that you didn’t really care about the look because it never bothered you.

Now, all of a sudden the boney growth on the outside knuckle of that big toe begins to hurt and it’s painful to the touch or to walk with shoes on. Then, it starts looking hideous. Who do you call? Ghostbusters?

Most people call the podiatrist or the surgeon. Typically, changes in footwear (those ugly podiatric shoes) and/or injections are recommended. The most common intervention, however, is surgery—to chop off the bone/soft tissue and reset the position of the big toe. Typically, the recovery could be anywhere from 6 weeks to 6 months and is usually a painful one. The success rate of these surgeries vary and most fail because resetting the bunions isn’t the fix. It’s a short term solution for a really big and long term problem that was around long before you could walk.

Causes of Bunions

Bunions are usually symptoms or negative by-products of a higher-up system that has gone awry. Examples of such systems could be the hips, knee, ankle/foot structure or alignment. The problem has been misclassified as hereditary. Some medical professionals have no idea and even go as far to say that it has an unknown origin and is just simply a boney deformity. My theory is that it has something to do with nurture over nature. Walking can be a learned behavior from infancy where you imitated your parents’ pattern and could be the cause of a lineage disturbed by bunions.

Regardless of whether the above is even true—there is a common problem with bunion victims’ gait or walking pattern. Addressing those will help decrease the chances of having that big toe bend in more, causing even more irritation.

Walking is the Most Repetitive Activity to Our Body

It’s a problem when the bunion begins to hurt.

Often times the mechanical dysfunction, such as walking, was not corrected from surgery and the same pressures on the body begin pushing from outside to inside reforming the bony defect that you once dreaded and hated. I like to think that misplaced weight on to the big toe and a rolling motion over the big toe keeps pushing it inwards. This is maybe a reason why after bunion surgery, bunions develop back not too long after.

What Can Be Done About It?

Whether you have had a bunionectomy (and it hasn’t helped) or thinking about having surgery, there are good methods out there using manual therapy. We use different techniques for different causes that alter the foot and ankle mechanics.

We often use techniques developed from the Functional Manual Therapy(TM) system to help mobilize and stabilize the bones and joints in the ankle and foot to give it a stronger structure. But each individual body and foot requires a thorough assessment for your needs. Foot structure changes can be visibly seen in 2-3 sessions but it is all about treating the whole body first and getting hips aligned and the ankle flexibility to return as a goal which can take some time to prepare your foundation.

Treating dysfunctions at the hips, knees, ankle and foot structures is the way to go. Since the toe last joint in the motion to propel, we need to go about it by correcting and realigning those other weak links first.

After the structure is improved, the hard work begins. We must start addressing the real issues: retraining how you walk in order to teach you to walk more safely and efficiently.

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