Battling bunions: What causes them, how they can be managed

Minimally-invasive procedure can help address bunion foot pain

A bunion is a bony bump that forms on the joint at the base of a big toe. They're generally progressive and get worse over time, and they can be both painful and unsightly to some people. Here's how to manage them.

The average American adult takes about 4,000-6,000 steps per day, and walks 75,000 miles on their feet by the time they reach the age of 50.

So, it should be no surprise that 75% of people will suffer foot pain in their lives, and one in three people will experience the pain of a bunion.

A bunion is a bony bump that forms on the joint at the base of a big toe. They’re generally progressive and get worse over time, and they can be both painful and unsightly to some people.

But how exactly are bunions created? And how can they be managed?

Experts say that high heels can contribute to the growth of bunions, but the strongest factor for developing a bunion is usually genetics. Some products that wrap around the foot or the bunion may help manage bunion pain, but these products won’t correct a bunion.

The traditional way most doctors correct a bunion is through open surgery that can be painful, and has a long recovery time. But now, some orthopedic surgeons are using the minimally-invasive bunionectomy instead.

During this procedure, surgeons make several small poke hole incisions in the bunion, and through those holes, the doctor can cut the bone using a small burr. The surgery time is the same for both the regular surgery and the bunionectomy, but the minimally-invasive procedure requires smaller incisions, so there’s less soft tissue damage, bleeding, scarring, swelling and overall pain.

Kathleen Faragai-Moke received the procedure after struggling with a bunion, and the pain it has caused, since she was a teenager. She says the bunionectomy changed her life and eliminated her pain, and she was able to start walking again (on her heel, at least) by the second week after the procedure.

Doctors say that not everybody is a candidate for the minimally-invasive bunionectomy. The procedure works best on somebody who has a moderate to severe bunion, no arthritis and no midfoot collapse.

Still, it is a good option for many to help ease bunion pain.


Related: What happens when one leg is shorter than the other?


About the Author:

Dr. McGeorge can be seen on Local 4 News helping Metro Detroiters with health concerns when he isn't helping save lives in the emergency room at Henry Ford Hospital.