Bunions: Can They Be Prevented?
Your grandma had them. Your mom had them. Now it’s your turn.
Or is it?
Bunions often feel inevitable, especially if you have a bit of family history with the condition. These unsightly, frustrating, and potentially very painful foot deformities have a tendency to run in families. And they also tend to develop gradually over many years, growing from a small, barely noticeable bump into a large, painful deformity that makes it impossible to wear normal shoes or perform many physical tasks comfortably.
Waiting and watching your toe get pulled further and further out of position over a long period of time isn’t an enjoyable process, but unfortunately many people give up before they even begin. But that’s a huge mistake!
Can Bunions Actually Be Prevented?
The short answer: maybe.
The longer answer?
Well, whether you can fully prevent a bunion from ever forming depends on your circumstances. But while we can’t exactly guarantee that you’ll never get one, it’s always worth it to attempt these strategies anyway.
Even in cases where the bunion cannot be completely prevented, you can still reduce the rate of progression and keep your feet more capable and comfortable for a longer period of time. Ideally, this will greatly delay, or outright eliminate, the eventual need for surgery.
It’s generally believed that the primary cause of most (if not all) bunions is a fundamental flaw in your foot structure or gait mechanics. In other words, you may have been born predisposed to develop bunions. That’s one major reason why bunions tend to run in families—if parents or grandparents had them, there’s a good chance they passed that foot structure down to you.
However, several environmental factors, such as the shoes you wear or the activities you perform, may have the effect of triggering – or at the very least accelerating – a bunion’s progression. If you avoid these triggers, you may be able to prevent or delay a bunion’s formation and/or slow its rate of progression.
Your Bunion Prevention Guide
Unfortunately, changing the foot structure you were born with is out of the question. However, following this “guide” can help you tremendously—whether that means complete prevention, preventing rapid progression, or just preventing the symptoms from becoming acute.
- Check your feet often. This goes double if you have a family history of bunions. Small deviations in foot shape can go unnoticed for a long time, especially since change happens so slowly. By tracking the shape of your feet over time, you’ll get a better sense of what you’re in for—and can respond more quickly with countermeasures.
- Exercise your feet and toes regularly. Keeping the muscles, tendons, and ligaments that support the big toe joint strong and flexible can help them resist misalignment. Try using your toes to pick up marbles or other small objects off the floor and put them into a bowl. You can also work on toe curls and flexes, resistance band exercises, and others. (We can help you pick out some good stretches at your appointment.)
- Avoid high heels. These shoes get special mention because they do a couple of things that are very bad for bunions. One, they shift all your weight onto the front part of your foot, right on the weakened and destabilized big toe joint. And two, they typically have very narrow toe boxes, which crams toes together and further destabilizes the toe joint.
- Avoid other poor footwear choices. While high heels get the lion’s share of the attention (and blame), they aren’t the only kind of footwear linked with bunion development. Anything with a narrow toe box or insufficient arch support could be a culprit. Also worth noting: even if the shoe itself is well designed, it can still cause problems if you’re wearing the wrong size!
See Us at the FIRST Sign of a Bunion—Not Just When Pain Starts
This is also part of the prevention guide, but it’s so important that it needs its own subheadline.
When bunions are in their earliest stages, there’s usually a lot of simple, conservative care options we can provide to help keep you comfortable and your bunion small for as long as possible. For example, we can coach you on stretching, provide you with toe splints, or even fit you for a set of custom orthotics. If your bunions are caused by your biomechanics (as they almost always are), then a tool that realigns your biomechanics (as custom orthotics do) is often a very smart choice.
But when you don’t see us until after the bunion has become large and pain is almost constant, you’re going to have fewer options available to you. You might even be at the point where surgery is your only recourse.
Now, we are very good at performing bunion surgery. If your bunion ever does get to that point, you can rest assured that you’ll be in good hands with a good outlook. But still, we’d rather avoid it coming to that if we can—and we think you’d agree!
So don’t be shy about seeing us about your bunions, no matter how small or insignificant they might seem to you now. The earlier you get help, the better!
Contact the Texas Foot & Ankle Center in Dallas today at (214) 660-0777, or request an appointment online if you’d prefer to go that route. Either way, we’ll be happy to confirm an appointment time with you shortly!
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1151 N. Buckner Boulevard, Suite 201
Dallas, TX 75218
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