Contrary to popular belief, preventing a bunion is possible. The problem is that many people don’t consider taking steps to do so until the bony bump has become a prominent fixture on the side of their foot.
And that is not to point blame at anyone! It is human nature to try to push potential problems out of mind until you just can’t ignore them any longer. And since bunions often develop very slowly over many years, a lot of people wind up in the proverbial “frog in a pot” position.
But if you want to be able to do the most you can to prevent a bunion from developing, or at least slow the progression of one that has already started, it is crucial that you don’t wait. The sooner a bunion risk or early-stage bunion is identified, the more options you have to stop it without surgery.
How Do I Know if I’m Getting a Bunion?
The early signs of a bunion can be easy to miss, but they shouldn’t be ignored. By the time symptoms start to develop, you can reasonably expect the root cause to have already been present for months or even years.
If you experience any of the following symptoms, it’s worth coming to see us about them:
- The emergence of a bump along the side of the foot, at the base of the toe (naturally).
- Redness and swelling around the base of the big toe.
- Pain around the base of the big toe/ball of the foot, especially when you spend time walking or wearing shoes. This pain may come and go early on.
- Calluses on the toe, where it may be rubbing against your shoe or neighboring toe.
Even if it ultimately ends up not being a bunion, these symptoms are still a sign of something that needs to be addressed. You won’t be wasting your time by seeking care.
There is also one sure sign that you should be keeping an eye out for potential bunion development: just take a look at your family lineage! The structural imbalances that can lead to bunion development are often inherited. If parents, grandparents, and other blood relations have or had bunions, your chances of developing them may be higher as well.
How to Prevent a Bunion from Forming or Progressing
Once again, the more you can do in the earliest stages of a bunion, the more of an impact you are likely to have in keeping it at bay.
That is not to say that nothing can be done to help keep a more developed bunion from progressing further. Options and effectiveness, however, will typically be more limited than when the condition is less pronounced and more flexible.
The first step toward a sound bunion prevention plan is identifying all the factors that may be contributing to the developing condition. While there may likely be an inherent structural imbalance at the core of the problem, other elements such as footwear, activity habits, and environment might also be relevant.
Once we have a full understanding of the condition, how it currently affects your life, and what it may lead to if left unaddressed, we can recommend a suitable plan for slowing or stopping the progression of the bunion.
Parts of that plan might include:
Changes to footwear
Any shoes that push excess weight and pressure to the front of the foot or cramp the toes together must go.
That includes notorious high heels, but also certain forms of dress shoes and anything that just doesn’t fit properly. While shoes don’t necessarily cause bunions at the source, having all that pressure around the toes will definitely contribute to the problem over time.
You do not necessarily need to order special shoes, either. In most cases, you can simply opt for footwear that has a roomy toe box (including space between the end of your longest toe and the front of the shoe) and fits without being tight against the foot.
If a structural imbalance in your foot is exerting pressure on a potential or developing bunion, orthotics can help redistribute that weight away from that area of vulnerability.
Depending on the severity and needs of the condition, inserts might come in the form of pre-fabricated designs that provide general padding and support, or fully prescribed custom orthotics that provide exact levels of cushioning and corrective influence.
Conditioning stretches and exercises
The more you directly engage the muscles and connective tissues surrounding the joints in and around your big toe, the better you can safeguard against future stiffness, pain, and rigidity. We can help you with a regimen that focuses on flexibility and range of motion.
We might also need to take a look at your current exercise habits. This is not to shoot down any ways you like to move, but to suggest accommodations and adjustments to those activities if they are contributing to your bunion risk.
What if Bunion Prevention Fails?
While our goal is always to help you prevent the need for surgery, or at least delay it as long as possible, this isn’t always possible—especially if your bunion has reached a moderate to severe stage of development.
If you do end up needing surgery, you can be confident that you’ll be in good hands at Advanced Foot & Ankle. Dr. Wettstein specializes in bunion surgery and is certified in Lapiplasty, an advanced “3D” bunion correction technique that not only allows patients to return to weight-bearing activity sooner, but also has a much lower long-term risk of recurrence when compared to conventional bunion surgeries.
Take Steps toward Bunion Prevention Now
There are additional recommendations we might make depending on the situation, such as wearing splints while you sleep. But whatever the plan is, taking action against a developing bunion is a great way to stem the tide of progression and shift the situation more toward your favor.
Whether you are certain of a bunion or not, we are more than happy to help you. Call us at (208) 731-6321 to schedule an appointment with us, or fill out the Contact Us form at the bottom of the page if you prefer to reach us electronically.