Why are bunions so painful?

Bunions are a common condition seen in many Australians. Bunions occur when the joint at the base of the big toe becomes larger and protrudes towards the body midline. This is often accompanied by the big toe itself turning outwards and the joint stiffening as well. For many this is a painful injury and can make finding footwear a difficult exercise, but why is it so painful?

Bunions tend to occur when the foot moves in compensatory way. Tightness through the calf, excessive mobility through the ankle joint and poorly fitting shoes are a few things that cause the foot to move through an altered path. The biggest issue is that the big toe is no longer asked to bend forwards during toe off. Instead these movements cause us to turn the foot outwards and roll off the inside of the joint instead. This leads to bony changes inside the joint itself.

Our body is very clever. It notices the different use of the joint and changes it to work better through that path. This includes reinforcing the joint to make it more rigid (and better as a lever) and changing the angle of the big toe to make it easier to roll off. However this means it loses those previous qualities. So certain shoes and activities cause the toe to now move outside it’s comfortable range.

Whilst this change is permanent, support and footwear choices help to allow the foot to function as well as possible. Combined with exercises to stretch and strengthen the right muscles in the foot and leg it allows for a well managed condition with minimal pains. If you are dealing with a painful bunion call our clinic at (07) 3823 5423 to book an appointment.